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(Ir)rational Voters?

Spenkuch, Jörg (2014): (Ir)rational Voters?

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Abstract

Social scientists have long speculated about the extent of agents' rationality, especially in the context of voting. However, existing attempts at classifying voters as (ir)rational have been hampered by the fact that preference orderings and, thus, optimal strategies are generally unobserved. Exploiting the incentive structure of Germany's electoral system, this paper develops a novel set of empirical tests in order to pit the canonical rational choice model against behavioral theories according to which voters simply choose their most preferred candidate. The results indicate that neither approach can rationalize the most-salient features of the data. The findings are consistent, however, with a simple hybrid model in which boundedly rational agents suffer a small psychic cost from acting strategically.

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