Article in a refereed journal
We test the rational choice model of turnout in the lab. We performed laboratory experiments in which participants had to decide whether to vote or not in a number of first past the post and proportional representation elections. We test the predictions of rational choice theory from three different angles: (i) First, we compare aggregate turnout with the Nash equilibrium predictions. (ii) Second, we compare individual decisions with those derived from a rational calculus and count the number of decisions which are consistent with the rational recommendation, and. (iii) Third, we determine, still at the individual level, whether, at the margin, people are more likely to vote as the expected payoff increases. The overwhelming thrust of the evidence is inconsistent with the rational calculus paradigm.