This research project investigates pure versus impure altruism in voting, with a focus on pre-vote information acquisition. Using the Swiss popular vote on the so-called “Horncow-Initiative” on November 25, 2018, we study one exemplary vote in which the voters themselves are not directly affected in material terms by the voting outcome, while the voting outcome will have externalities on others (in this case, animals). Such votes are liable to so-called “expressive voting” or “moral bias”, i.e., voters express altruism. Altruism can be pure – i.e., consequentialist and based on information about the true effects on those concerned – or impure, i.e., motivated by self-signalling, or, equivalently, by the so-called warm glow. In the latter case, voters are not necessarily motivated to acquire information about true consequences on those affected but use the vote to express, and signal to themselves, that they have morally good intentions. Impure altruism can even cause deliberate information avoidance. A welfare-maximizing approach that puts higher weights on externalities than on ego utility would imply minimizing information avoidance and hence reducing impure altruism. We conduct a survey experiment with a sample of approx. 2000 individuals to investigate the conditions under which voters acquire objective and balanced information, rather than to avoid information.
A second focus of this project is on animal welfare in its own right. We investigate whether consumption behavior that improves animal welfare (such as refraining from meat consumption) and voting in favor of animal-welfare regulation are positively correlated, or whether “altruistic voting” is a compensation for egoistic consumption behavior. Both possibilities are predicted by economic theories on (self-)signalling and moral behavior.
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Dittmann, I., Kübler, D., Maug, E., and L. Mechtenberg (2014): Why Votes Have Value: Instrumental Voting with Overconfidence and Overestimation of Others' Errors. Games and Economic Behaviour 84, 17-38.
Erlanger, A. C. E. and S.V. Tsytsarev (2012): The relationship between empathy and personality in undergraduate students’ attitudes toward nonhuman animals. Society and Animals 20(1), 21-38.
Feddersen, T., Gailmard, S., and A. Sandroni (2009): Moral bias in large elections: theory and experimental evidence. American Political Science Review, 103(2), 175-192.
Grossman, Z. and J.J. van der Weele (2017): Self-Image and Willful Ignorance in Social Decisions. Journal of the European Economic Association 15(1), 173-217.
Hesterman, N., Treich, N. S., and Y. L. Yaouanq (2018): An economic model of the meat paradox. Mimeo.
Levin, J., Arluke, A., and L. Irvine (2017): Are People More Disturbed by Dog or Human Suffering?. Society and Animals 25(1), 1-16.
Morton, R., Piovesan, M., and J.R. Tyran (2018): The dark side of the vote: Biased voters, social information, and information aggregation through majority voting. Games and Economic Behaviour, forthcoming.
Tyran, J. R. and A.K. Wagner (2016): Experimental Evidence on Expressive Voting. Forthcoming in Congleton, R., Grofman, B. and S. Voigt (eds.): Oxford Handbook of Public Choice.