Learning about Voter Rationality

Scott Ashworth, Ethan Bueno de Mesquita, Amanda Friedenberg

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

22 Scopus citations

Abstract

An important empirical literature evaluates whether voters are rational by examining how electoral outcomes respond to events outside the control of politicians, such as natural disasters or economic shocks. The argument is that rational voters should not base electoral decisions on such events, so evidence that these events affect electoral outcomes is evidence of voter irrationality. We show that such events can affect electoral outcomes, even if voters are rational and have instrumental preferences. The reason is that these events change voters' opportunities to learn new information about incumbents. Thus, identifying voter (ir)rationality requires more than just identifying the impact of exogenous shocks on electoral fortunes. Our analysis highlights systematic ways in which electoral fortunes are expected to change in response to events outside incumbents' control. Such results can inform empirical work attempting to identify voter (ir)rationality.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)37-54
Number of pages18
JournalAmerican Journal of Political Science
Volume62
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - Jan 2018

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Political Science and International Relations

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    Ashworth, S., Bueno de Mesquita, E., & Friedenberg, A. (2018). Learning about Voter Rationality. American Journal of Political Science, 62(1), 37-54. https://doi.org/10.1111/ajps.12334