Asymmetric Partisan Voter Turnout Games

Dyn Games Appl. 2021;11(4):738-758. doi: 10.1007/s13235-021-00384-1. Epub 2021 Apr 16.


Since Downs proposed that the act of voting is irrational in 1957, myriad models have been proposed to explain voting and account for observed turnout patterns. We propose a model in which partisans consider both the instrumental and expressive benefits of their vote when deciding whether or not to abstain in an election, introducing an asymmetry that most other models do not consider. Allowing learning processes within our electorate, we analyze what evolutionarily stable strategies are rationalizable under various conditions. Upon varying electorate size, the partisan split of the electorate, and the degree to which an electorate takes underdog considerations into account in its payoff structure, we find that different equilibria arise. Our model predicts comparative statics that are consistent with voter behavior, specifically affirming a "size effect," in which turnout decreases as electorate size increases. Furthermore, relaxing some of our preliminary assumptions eliminates some of the discrepancies between the predictions of our model and empirical voter behavior. In particular, our work demonstrates that misperceptions about the partisan split of an electorate may account for high turnout behavior .

Supplementary information: The online version supplementary material available at 10.1007/s13235-021-00384-1.

Keywords: Asymmetry; Downs’ paradox; Evolutionarily stable strategies; Evolutionary game dynamics; Social learning.