Individual Behavior Under Evaluative Voting: A Comparison Between Laboratory and In Situ Experiments

  • Herrade Igersheim
  • Antoinette Baujard
  • Frédéric Gavrel
  • Jean-François Laslier
  • Isabelle Lebon


This chapter compares two experimental methodologies for studying how individual voting behavior changes with respect to the choice of voting rule. We concentrate on different versions of Evaluative Voting. The results are based on two types of experimental protocol: a classical laboratory experiment with monetarily-induced preferences, and an in situ experiment run in parallel with the 2012 French presidential election. In the laboratory, individuals use the different rating scales in similar ways; but this is not the case in situ. The difference may be due to the different ways subjects interpret the proposed scales (in particular negative grades) when they concern real candidates. Finally, the chapter discusses what each method can teach us about voter behavior. Notably, we highlight behavior that is in contradiction with the tenets of strict rationality. This phenomenon, which is very widely observed in situ, and where it may be explained by a motive to express oneself, is also observed in the lab, where it is still to be explained.


Voting Field Experiment In Situ Experiment Laboratory Experiment Evaluative Voting Approval Voting Strategic Behavior 



We warmly thank all those who contributed to our experiments. For the in situ experiment, see For the lab experiment, we especially thank E. Priour and the LABEX in Rennes, and K. Boun My and the LEES in Strasbourg. This chapter was first presented at the Montreal Voting Experiment Workshop held in March 2014; we are grateful to the project Making Electoral Democracy Work for their invitation and to the participants of the workshop for their comments. As regards funding, we thank the CREM, Chaire CNRS & UJM “Welfare economics” as well as the Foundation of the University of Strasbourg.


  1. Alcantud, J. C. R., & Laruelle, A. (2012). To approve or not to approve, this is not the only question (University of the Basque Country Working Paper Series: IL, 63/12).Google Scholar
  2. Alós-Ferrer, C., & Granić, Ð.-G. (2012). Two field experiments on approval voting in Germany. Social Choice and Welfare, 39, 171–205.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Balinski, M., Laraki, R., Laslier, J. -F., & Van der Straeten, K. (2003). Le vote par assentiment: une expérience. Cahiers du Laboratoire d’Econométrie de l’Ecole Polytechnique, n°2003-13.Google Scholar
  4. Baujard, A., & Igersheim, H. (2010). Framed-field experiments on approval voting. Lessons from the 2002 and 2007 French Presidential elections. In L. Jean-François & R. Sanver (Eds.), Handbook of approval voting (pp. 357–395). Heidelberg: Springer. Chapter 15.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Baujard, A., Igersheim, H., Lebon, I., Gavrel, F., & Laslier, J.-F. (2014). Who’s favored by evaluative voting? An experiment conducted during the 2012 French Presidential Election. Electoral Studies, 34, 131–145.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Baujard, A., Igersheim, H., & Senné, T. (2011). An analysis of the political supply in the 2007 French Presidential election based on framed-field experimental data. Annales d’Economie et Statistiques, 101–102, 149–186.Google Scholar
  7. Brams, S. J., & Fishburn, P. C. (1978). Approval voting. American Political Science Review, 72, 831–847.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Cox, G. W. (1997). Making votes count: Strategic coordination in the world’s electoral systems. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. d’Aspremont, C., & Gevers, L. (1977). Equity and the informational basis of collective choice. The Review of Economic Studies, 44, 199–209.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Debreu, G. (1960). Topological methods in cardinal utility theory. In K. J. Arrow, S. Karlin, & P. Suppes (Eds.), Mathematical methods in the social sciences (pp. 16–26). Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press.Google Scholar
  11. Dellis, A. (2010). Policy moderation and endogenous candidacy in approval voting elections. In J.-F. Laslier & R. Sanver (Eds.), Handbook of approval voting (pp. 431–453). Heidelberg: Springer.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Fiorina, M. P., & Plott, C. R. (1978). Committee decisions under majority rule: An experimental study. American Political Science Review, 72, 575–598.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Gaertner, W., & Xu, Y. (2012). A general scoring rule. Mathematical Social Sciences, 63, 193–196.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Grofman, B., Dolez, B., & Laurent, A. (2011). In situ and laboratory experiments on electoral law reform: French Presidential Elections. Heidelberg: Springer.Google Scholar
  15. Hillinger, C. (2004). On the possibility of democracy and rational collective choice (Discussion Paper, n° 2004-21). University of Munich.Google Scholar
  16. Hillinger, C. (2005). The case for utilitarian voting. Homo Oeconomicus, 23, 295–321.Google Scholar
  17. Jerit, J., Barabas, J., & Clifford, S. (2013). Comparing contemporaneous laboratory and field experiments on media effects. Public Opinion Quarterly, 77, 256–282.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Laslier, J.-F. (2009). The leader rule: A model of strategic approval voting in a large electorate. Journal of Theoretical Politics, 21, 113–136.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Laslier, J.-F. (2011). Lessons from in situ tests during French elections. In B. Dolez, B. Grofman, & A. Laurent (Eds.), In situ and laboratory experiments on electoral law reform: French Presidential Elections (pp. 90–104). Heidelberg: Springer. Chapter 5.Google Scholar
  20. Laslier, J.-F., & van der Straeten, K. (2008). Approval voting in the French 2002 presidential election: A live experiment. Experimental Economics, 11, 97–195.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Lebon, I., Baujard, A., Gavrel, F., Igersheim, H., & Laslier, J. -F. (2014). Individual behaviors facing different scales in evaluation voting (Working Paper).Google Scholar
  22. Macé, A. (2014). Voting with evaluations: When should we sum, what should we sum? (Working Paper). Ecole Polytechnique.Google Scholar
  23. Myerson, R. B., & Weber, R. J. (1993). A theory of voting equilibria. American Political Science Review, 87, 102–114.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Núñez, M., & Laslier, J.-F. (2014). Preference intensity representation: Strategic overstating in large elections. Social Choice and Welfare, 42, 313–340.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Pivato, M. (2013). Formal utilitarianism and range voting. Mathematical Social Sciences, 67, 50–56.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Schwarz, N., Knäuper, B., Hippler, H.-J., Noelle-Neumann, E., & Clark, L. (1991). Numeric values may change the meaning of scale labels. The Public Opinion Quarterly, 55, 570–582.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Smaoui, H. (2007). Le système de vote par note à trois niveaux : étude axiomatique (Working Paper). BETA-CREM.Google Scholar
  28. Van der Straeten, K., Laslier, J.-F., Sauger, N., & Blais, A. (2010). Strategic, sincere, and heuristic voting under four election rules: An experimental study. Social Choice and Welfare, 35, 435–472.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Herrade Igersheim
    • 1
  • Antoinette Baujard
    • 2
  • Frédéric Gavrel
    • 3
  • Jean-François Laslier
    • 4
  • Isabelle Lebon
    • 3
  1. 1.CNRS, BETA, Université de StrasbourgStrasbourg CedexFrance
  2. 2.GATE L-SE, Université Jean MonnetLyon-Saint EtienneFrance
  3. 3.CREM and Condorcet CenterUniversité de Caen Basse-NormandieCaenFrance
  4. 4.CNRS, Paris School of EconomicsParisFrance

Personalised recommendations