Jan Klingelhöfer: The Swing Voters' Blessing
Monday, 18 May, 2015

On Monday, May 18th, ISET hosted Mr. Jan Klingelhöfer from RWTH Aachen University who presented his paper titled “The Swing Voters' Blessing" to the ISET community. The paper deals with the following question: can democracy work well if the electorate is neither fully informed nor fully rational?

In order to answer this question, Mr. Klingelhöfer gave an affirmative answer in a model with quality differences between two ideological candidates running for office. The candidates commit to policy platforms before an election takes place. All voters care about the quality of the candidates as well as the policies they offer. However, the quality differences are only observable to a limited number of informed voters.

The paper shows that if all uninformed voters are fully rational, they follow a strategy of making their voting decisions dependent only on the position of their own policy bliss point relative to the median bliss point. As in the standard case with only informed voters, the candidate who is preferred by the median voter wins. In equilibrium, this is the higher quality candidate and the policy implemented is the same as if all voters had been fully informed.

The main conclusions offered by the paper are (but not limited to): having a better-informed electorate can decrease electoral competition; the swing voter is a blessing rather than a curse because they increase electoral control and force winning candidates to get closer to the median position; the existence of ‘Swing Voters’ Blessing’ increases the welfare of the majority of voters.

The topic of Mr. Klingelhöfer’s presentation deserved the high attention of the audience and was followed by an extensive discussion.