Experimental Economics

, Volume 18, Issue 3, pp 366–384 | Cite as

Laboratory elections with endogenous turnout: proportional representation versus majoritarian rule

Original Paper


I investigate the impact of proportional representation (PR) and majoritarian rule (MR) on voter turnout and minority representation using theory and experiments. Numerous empirical studies have compared turnout across PR and MR. However, the empirical evidence is mixed. I show theoretically and experimentally that the comparison of turnout across PR and MR depends on the size of the minority but the empirical papers on the topic do not control for it. I also show that, in both theory and data, PR improves minority representation at a minute cost to efficiency if the size of the minority is sufficiently large. However, the representation of a small minority does not show a remarkable improvement under PR, unlike what the theory predicts. I conjecture that, under PR, there is a discouragement effect for the small minority because the PR system that I employ has an election threshold. As a result, the impact of the voting system on representation may be sensitive to both the size of the minority and the degree of proportionality.


Majoritarian rule Proportional representation Voting experiments Turnout Minority representation 

JEL Classification

C91 C92 D72 



I am grateful to Guillaume Frechette, Alessandro Lizzeri and, especially, Andrew Schotter for their support and encouragement. I would like to thank the editor Jacob Goeree and the two anonymous referees for their valuable advice and comments. I also thank Alejandro Corvalan, Jack Fanning, Arthur Schram, Emanuel Vespa, Sevgi Yuksel, participants of CESS/CREED Student Conference and participants of ESA Conference in Tucson for their suggestions and comments. Finally, I thank Center for Experimental Social Science (CESS) at New York University and Vienna Center for Experimental Economics (VCEE) at University of Vienna for financial support.

Supplementary material

10683_2014_9408_MOESM1_ESM.pdf (120 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (pdf 120 KB)


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Copyright information

© Economic Science Association 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of EconomicsUniversity of ViennaViennaAustria

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