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Bandwagoning and the 2014 Congressional Election

On November 4th, 2014, United States citizens went to the voting booths to vote in the 2014 Congressional Election. The Republicans won control of America’s Senate for the first time in eight years and increased their majority in the House of Representatives for a very successful round of voting. Much of the reason for the party’s success was voters’ dismay at the current state of the nation, only made acute by collapsing public confidence in Barack Obama.

Polls held for this eletion pointed toward a Republican victory and, sure enough, the results backed them. Polls have accurately forecasted the results in previous elections as well. They are designed to be a way for campaigners to gauge the ongoing success of their efforts, but a study finds that it actually may affect public opinion! In the cited paper, the authors (David Rothschild of Microsoft Research and Neil Malholtra of Stanford University) study the effect of bandwagoning caused by publicly available poll results. Although much of the population votes based on their individual opinions, it claims a small but significant percentage of voters are swayed by public opinion. People learn about trending political opinions and from this, the authors hypothesized that initial majorities grow in a cascading manner. They conducted an experiment in which poll results were indeed found to affect individuals’ opinions on issues. This reinforces the idea of an information cascade as learned in the course.

http://www.economist.com/news/leaders/21631024-republicans-have-won-huge-victory-now-they-must-learn-compromise-welcome-back-washington

http://rap.sagepub.com/content/1/2/2053168014547667.full

 

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