Funded by the British Academy (April 2017 - March 2019)
In many elections, opinion polls affect electoral outcomes: some voters switch their original vote intention to support the party that is leading the polls. Previous research indicates that this ‘bandwagon effect’ can give an advantage of up to five percentage points to the leading party. Is this advantage unfair? To answer this question, we need to understand the mechanism behind election bandwagon effects.
Campaign surveys are great tools to shed lights on the bandwagon effect. However, they can hardly elicit the mechanism behind it, as human beings are rarely the best judges when it comes at evaluating their own motives. Therefore, our plan is to conduct a series laboratory experiments where we organise elections among human subjects under various electoral rules. The advantage of laboratory experiments is that they allow the researcher to isolate some important factors, and as a consequence they can elicit the mechanisms that are at stake in group decision-making. In particular, we want to test whether the bandwagon effect is driven either by the willingness of some voters to follow the herd, or by them acknowledging that others might know better which is the best party.