Quarterly Journal of Political Science > Vol 10 > Issue 4

Information and Wasted Votes: A Study of U.S. Primary Elections

Andrew B. Hall, Department of Political Science, Stanford University, USA, andrewbhall@stanford.edu , James M. Snyder, Jr., Leroy B. Williams Professor of History and Political Science, Department of Government, Harvard University and NBER, USA, jsnyder@gov.harvard.edu
Suggested Citation
Andrew B. Hall and James M. Snyder, Jr. (2015), "Information and Wasted Votes: A Study of U.S. Primary Elections", Quarterly Journal of Political Science: Vol. 10: No. 4, pp 433-459. http://dx.doi.org/10.1561/100.00015027

Publication Date: 17 Dec 2015
© 2015 A. B. Hall and J. M. Snyder
Elections,  Formal modelling,  Game theory,  Voting


Download article
In this article:
1. Introduction 
2. Strategic Voting and Giving Across Offices 
3. Isolating Information Effects Using Media Markets 
4. Conclusion 


We study whether information leads voters and donors to "waste" fewer votes and donations on candidates who do not finish in first or second place. Examining U.S. primary elections featuring more than two candidates, we compare voting and contribution behavior across offices with varying levels of information. We find that voters and donors are more likely to support the top two candidates, and less likely to waste votes or donations on lesser candidates, when information levels are higher. In addition, we find that donors consistently act more "strategically" — i.e., waste fewer donations on lesser candidates — than voters. To supplement these analyses, we isolate the causal effect of information by leveraging adjacent U.S. counties that differ in their access to politically relevant information from the media. We again find that information helps voters avoid wasting votes on candidates who are unlikely to win. The results are relevant for understanding the behavior of voters and contributors, for understanding the role of information in elections, and for the evaluation of policies like runoff primaries designed to facilitate strategic voting outcomes.