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Shabman and Stephenson: A critique of the self-interested voter model

Disclaimer. Don't rely on these old notes in lieu of reading the literature, but they can jog your memory. As a grad student long ago, my peers and I collaborated to write and exchange summaries of political science research. I posted them to a wiki-style website. "Wikisum" is now dead but archived here. I cannot vouch for these notes' accuracy, nor can I even say who wrote them. If you have more recent summaries to add to this collection, send them my way I guess. Sorry for the ads; they cover the costs of keeping this online.

Shabman and Stephenson. 1994. A critique of the self-interested voter model: The case of a local single issue referendum. Journal of Economic Issues 28 (December): 1173-1186.

In Brief

Hypothesis H1: Those who live or work in floodplain (10% of population) are more likely to vote for tax increase than those who don't live/work in floodplain. H2: Those who live or work in floodplain (10% of population) are more likely to cast a vote than those who don't live/work in floodplain.
IV(s)
  • protect home
  • protect work
  • knowledge that tax increases
  • income
  • protect home
  • protect work
  • knowledge that tax increases
  • income
  • retire
  • mobility
DV How Vote Cast Vote
Model How Vote = f(protect home, protect work, increase tax, income) Vote = f(retire, mobility, income, protect home, protect work, increase tax)
Findings Only protect home and protect work were statistically significant in determining who voted for the tax increase. Model predicted 42% would vote for project, but 54% actually voted for it. S&S argue that we need to acct for Bn (altruistic behaviour). Therefore: self-interest was important determinant, but was insufficient to predict voting behaviour. Only retire, mobility, income, and tax increase were statistically significant. Protect home/work were not significant. Model predicted 4% voter turnout. Actual turnout: 18%. Self-interest model = bad predictor: We need to account for P, D (intrinsic value of voting), or Ba (altruistic). If it were Bn, turnout should have been higher than in regular elections (not the case). If it were P, turnout should have been higher b/c more likely to be decisive in small elections (not the case). D (intrinsic value of voting) most likely to be determining factor.

The Bottom Line

These findings present various problems for the public choice model. Although the PC model does not preclude altruism and civic duty, their inclusion means that the model is non-falsifiable, and therefore pretty much useless.

Research on similar subjects

Tags

Shabman, Leonard (author)Stephenson, Kurt (author)Political SciencePolitical TheorySelf-InterestVotingTurnoutProsocial Behavior

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