Voting as a signal of education

Since the chance of swaying the outcome of an election by voting is usually very small, it cannot be that voters vote solely for that purpose. So why do we vote? One explanation is that smarter or more educated voters have access to better information about the candidates, and are concerned with appearing to have better information about the candidates through their choice of whether to vote or not. If voting behavior is publicly observed then more educated voters may vote to signal their education, even if the election itself is inconsequential and the cost of voting is the same across voters. I explore this explanation with a model of voting where players are unsure about the importance of swaying the election and high type players receive more precise signals. I introduce a new information ordering, a weakening of Blackwell's order, to formalize the notion of information precision. Once voting has occurred, players visit a labor market and are paid the expected value of their type, conditioning only on their voting behavior. I find that in very large games, voter turnout and the signaling return to voting remains high even though the chance of swaying the election disappears and the cost of voting is the same for all types. I explore generalizations of this model, and close by comparing the stylized features of voter turnout to the features of the model.

Download Paper

Paper Number
Authored by