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Published August 7, 2017 | Submitted
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Indecision Theory: Quality of Information and Voting Behavior


In this paper we show how to incorporate quality of information into a model of voting behavior. We do so in the context of the turnout decision of instrumentally rational voters who differ in their quality of information, which we refer to as ambiguity. Ambiguity is reflected by the fact that the voter's beliefs are given by a set of probabilities, each of which represents in the voter's mind a different possible scenario. We show that in most elections voters who satisfy the Bayesian model do not strictly prefer abstaining over voting for one of the candidates. In contrast, a voter who is averse to ambiguity considers abstention strictly optimal when the candidates' policy positions are both ambiguous and they are "ambiguity complements". Abstaining is preferred since it is tantamount to mixing the prospects embodied by the two candidates, thus enabling the voter to "hedge" the candidates' ambiguity.

Additional Information

Revised. Original dated to November 2000. This paper replaces an earlier paper that was circulated in August 1997 with the title "Indecision Theory: An Informational Model of Roll-Off". We are very grateful to Alessandro Lizzeri for many detailed comments, and to Doug Bernheim, Peter Bossaerts, Colin Camerer, Tim Feddersen, Michel Le Breton, Tom Palfrey, Ken Shotts and audiences at Caltech, UCLA, the Department of Political Science at UC-San Diego, the 1999 Wallis Conference on Political Economy and the 2001 SITE Conference for helpful comments and discussion. Jonathan Katz thanks the John M. Olin Foundation for a Faculty Fellowship supporting his research.

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Submitted - sswp1106_-_revised.pdf


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