Date of Award:
Master of Science (MS)
Economics and Finance
Voter turnout rates are low in the United States. Even among citizens who show up to the polls, many do not vote in every race on the ballot. This is especially true for low-profile elections, and races where political party is not on the ballot. Both low turn out and incomplete ballots could be caused by high costs of information. Voters and non-voters have time constraints that can prevent them from researching every candidate or proposition on the ballot. One proposed solution to increase citizen informedness is to make voting mandatory. Mandatory voting imposes a penalty (usually a fine) if a citizen fails to turn out on election day. While the introduction of mandatory voting may increase turnout rates, it is unclear if it will lead to a more informed electorate. I explore the effects of mandatory voting on information acquisition by developing a model that compares citizen informedness in a costly election under both mandatory and optional voting schemes. I find that optional voting results in a more informed electorate, unless information acquisition is free or extremely cheap relative to the cost of voting. The model predicts that moderate citizens are less likely to learn about candidate preferences, compared to citizens with more extreme preferences.
Meyer, Jacob, "Abstention and Costly Information Acquisition in Elections" (2020). All Graduate Theses and Dissertations. 7723.