“The Effect of a `None of the Above’ Ballot Paper Option on Voter and Politician Behavior and Election Outcomes”
(joint work with Attila Ambrus and Anita Zednik)
"We investigate how an explicit blank vote option "None of the above” (NOTA) on the ballot paper affects the behavior of voters and political candidates as well as election results. We report evidence from two online survey experiments conducted in the weeks preceding the 2016 U.S. Presidential Election and the 2016 Austrian run-off election for President. The two elections are special because in the U.S. election one firmly establishment candidate (Hillary Clinton) was facing a self-declared non-establishment candidate (Donald Trump), while in the Austrian election, both candidates were from outside the traditional political establishment. In our survey experiments we subjected participants either to the original ballot paper or to a manipulated ballot paper where we added a NOTA option. We find that participants with a protest motive, who are either unhappy with the candidate set or with the political establishment in general, choose NOTA. Introducing a NOTA option on the ballot increases participation and reduces the vote shares of non-establishment candidates."
"We explore the reaction of political candidates to the existence of a NOTA option in a laboratory experiment. We replicate our field evidence that including NOTA diverts votes from a protest option (e.g. an inferior candidate or policy), thus decreasing the likelihood that the protest option actually wins. However, political candidates learn to anticipate this shift and as a result become more likely to make unfair policy proposals when NOTA is present. Consequently, including a NOTA option on the ballot paper increases the efficiency of voting outcomes but at the same time increases inequality in the population."
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