Social Preferences and Voting: An Exploration Using a Novel Preference Revealing Mechanism
Messer, Kent D. Poe, Gregory L.; Rondeau, Daniel; Schulze, William D.; Vossler, Christian A.
Public referenda are frequently used to determine the provision of public goods. As public programs have distributional consequences, a compelling question is what role if any social preferences have on voting behavior. This paper explores this issue using laboratory experiments wherein voting outcomes lead to a known distribution of net benefits across participants. Preferences are elicited using a novel Random Price Voting Mechanism (RPVM), which is a more parsimonious mechanism than dichotomous choice referenda, but gives consistent results. Results suggest that social preferences, in particular a social efficiency motive, lead to economically meaningful deviations from self-interested voting choices and increase the likelihood that welfare-enhancing programs are implemented.
WP 2008-12 March 2008JEL Classification Codes: C91; C92; D64; D72; H41
Charles H. Dyson School of Applied Economics and Management, Cornell University