Social Choice and Welfare

, Volume 33, Issue 1, pp 25–50 | Cite as

Costly voting when both information and preferences differ: is turnout too high or too low?

  • Sayantan Ghosal
  • Ben Lockwood
Original Paper


We study a model of costly voting over two alternatives, where agents’ preferences are determined by both (i) a private preference in favour of one alternative e.g. candidates’ policies, and (ii) heterogeneous information in the form of noisy signals about a commonly valued state of the world e.g. candidate competence. We show that depending on the level of the personal bias (weight on private preference), voting is either according to private preferences or according to signals. When voting takes place according to private preferences, there is an unique equilibrium with inefficiently high turnout. In contrast, when voting takes place according to signals, turnout is locally too low. Multiple Pareto-ranked voting equilibria may exist and in particular, compulsory voting may Pareto dominate voluntary voting. Moreover, an increase in personal bias can cause turnout to rise or fall, and an increase in the accuracy of information may cause a switch to voting on the basis of signals and thus lower turnout, even though it increases welfare.


Pure Strategy Multiple Equilibrium Personal Bias Private Preference Cutoff Strategy 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of EconomicsUniversity of WarwickCoventryUK

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