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Resolving questions about bias in real and hypothetical referenda

Lookup NU author(s): Anthony Burton, Professor Susan Chilton


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Despite 10 years of research on behavior in hypothetical referenda, conflict remains in the literature on whether or not the mechanism generates biased responses compared to real referenda, and the nature and source of any such bias. Almost all previous inquiry in respect of this issue has concentrated on bias at the aggregate level. This paper reports a series of three experiments which focuses on bias at the individual level and how this can translate to bias at the aggregate level. The authors argue that only an individual approach to hypothetical bias is consistent with the concept of incentive compatibility. The results of these experiments reflect these previous conflicting findings but go on to show that individual hypothetical bias is a robust result driven by the differing influence of pure self-interest and other- regarding preferences in real and hypothetical situations, rather than by a single behavioral theory such as free riding. In a hypothetical situation these preferences cause yea-saying and non-demand revealing voting. This suggests that investigation of individual respondents in other hypothetical one-shot binary choices may also provide us with insights into aggregate behavior in these situations. © 2007 Springer Science+Business Media, Inc.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Burton AC, Carson KS, Chilton SM, Hutchinson WG

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Environmental and Resource Economics

Year: 2007

Volume: 38

Issue: 4

Pages: 513-525

ISSN (print): 0924-6460

ISSN (electronic): 1573-1502

Publisher: Springer Netherlands


DOI: 10.1007/s10640-007-9095-6


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