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Modeling Peoples Voting Behavior with Poll Information

by   Roy Fairstein, et al.

Despite the prevalence of voting systems in the real world there is no consensus among researchers of how people vote strategically, even in simple voting settings. This paper addresses this gap by comparing different approaches that have been used to model strategic voting, including expected utility maximization, heuristic decisionmaking, and bounded rationality models. The models are applied to data collected from hundreds of people in controlled voting experiments, where people vote after observing non-binding poll information. We introduce a new voting model, the Attainability- Utility (AU) heuristic, which weighs the popularity of a candidate according to the poll, with the utility of the candidate to the voter. We argue that the AU model is cognitively plausible, and show that it is able to predict peoples voting behavior significantly better than other models from the literature. It was almost at par with (and sometimes better than) a machine learning algorithm that uses substantially more information. Our results provide new insights into the strategic considerations of voters, that undermine the prevalent assumptions of much theoretical work in social choice.


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