Title

Informed Voters and Electoral Outcomes: A Natural Experiment Stemming from a Fundamental Information Technological Shift

Campus

Dahlonega

Publication date

10-2021

Publisher

Springer

Book or Journal Information

Public Choice, 189(1-2), 257-277

Keywords

Elections, Baseball, Behavioral changes, Voting, Professional baseball, Voters, Political campaigns, Candidates, Information

Abstract

Do informed electorates choose better candidates? While that question is straightforward, its answer often is elusive. Typically, candidate-quality information is neither salient nor subject to exogenous change. We identify a natural experiment within a non-political election setting that is transparent and features exogenous change in the candidate-quality information frontier. The setting is Major League Baseball’s (MLB) annual selection of two most valuable players, a challenging environment with an innately heterogeneous candidate set, and the exogenous change is the development of the pathbreaking, comprehensive player-value measure Wins Above Replacement (WAR) in 2004 and its subsequent calculation for all retrospective MLB player-seasons. WAR's development and rapid popularization informed voting from 2004 onward. Retrospective calculation allows us to draw back the curtain and evaluate how pre-2004 voters behaved with respect to revealed candidate quality. From negative binomial, fixed-effect regression models, we find robust evidence of significant, substantial, pivotal behavioral change on the part of voters since 2004.

Author Biography

Joel M. Potter is a professor of economics in the Mike Cottrell College of Business at the University of North Georgia. He has active academic interests in the economics of sports as well as the economics of inequality. He has become increasingly more engaged in studying political and economic inequality between men and women. Joel is Lara Polangco Potter’s husband. They are raising their five children in rural north Georgia.

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Informed Voters and Electoral Outcomes: A Natural Experiment Stemming from a Fundamental Information Technological Shift

Do informed electorates choose better candidates? While that question is straightforward, its answer often is elusive. Typically, candidate-quality information is neither salient nor subject to exogenous change. We identify a natural experiment within a non-political election setting that is transparent and features exogenous change in the candidate-quality information frontier. The setting is Major League Baseball’s (MLB) annual selection of two most valuable players, a challenging environment with an innately heterogeneous candidate set, and the exogenous change is the development of the pathbreaking, comprehensive player-value measure Wins Above Replacement (WAR) in 2004 and its subsequent calculation for all retrospective MLB player-seasons. WAR's development and rapid popularization informed voting from 2004 onward. Retrospective calculation allows us to draw back the curtain and evaluate how pre-2004 voters behaved with respect to revealed candidate quality. From negative binomial, fixed-effect regression models, we find robust evidence of significant, substantial, pivotal behavioral change on the part of voters since 2004.