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Welfare Reducing Polls


We study costly majority voting when voters rationally anticipate others have similar preferences. The correlation in preferences lowers expected turnout because votes have a positive externality on those who abstain. We study the effects of the public release of information (polls) on participation levels. Polls raise expected turnout but reduce expected welfare because they stimulate the “wrong” group to participate resulting in a “toss-up” election. Our novel results highlight the adverse effects of providing information about the electorate’s preferences and may explain why some countries bar opinion polls close to an election date.

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Correspondence to Jacob K. Goeree.

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Goeree, J.K., Großer, J. Welfare Reducing Polls. Economic Theory 31, 51–68 (2007).

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  • Strategic voting
  • Costly participation
  • Correlated preferences
  • Polls
  • Toss-up elections

JEL classification numbers

  • C70
  • D72