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Information Cascades in Voting

When people thing of voting, they think of voting in a static way. Most people view voting as an event where everyone goes to the poll at once and without knowing who everyone else is voting for votes for their preferred candidate. However, polling for presidential candidates does not follow this path. While voters in any one state vote at the same time, not all states have presidential primaries or caucuses at the same time. These primaries and caucuses occur in a sequential order, meaning that the votes of early voters can have an effect on later voters, even if later voters do not know why earlier voters voted for a particular candidate. This follows the idea of information cascades covered in class, and we will now analyze exactly how information cascades work in presidential voting.


Early voters can signal that they know information about a candidate by who they vote for. If an early voter votes for a particular candidate, later voters assume that the early voters know something about the candidates that lead them to vote for a candidate. However, the later voters do not know exactly why the early voters voted for a candidate. The knowledge that early voters voted for a candidate plays into who later voters vote for, such that an information cascade can start. Later voters may vote for a candidate because many early voters did and thus assume that candidate must be the best if everyone else voted for them, even if this is not the case. This is how Republican and Democratic candidates usually win their party’s nomination: eventually they begin getting voted for in an information cascade and win the nomination after taking almost all of the later states.


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November 2015