DP15201 Does Vote Trading Improve Welfare?

Author(s): Alessandra Casella, Antonin Macé
Publication Date: August 2020
Keyword(s): bundling, logrolling, quadratic voting, storable votes, vote markets, voting
JEL(s): D6, D71, D72
Programme Areas: Public Economics
Link to this Page: cepr.org/active/publications/discussion_papers/dp.php?dpno=15201

Voters have strong incentives to increase their influence by trading votes, a practice indeed believed to be common. But is vote trading welfare-improving or welfare-decreasing? We review the theoretical literature and, when available, its related experimental tests. We begin with the analysis of logrolling -- the exchange of votes for votes, considering both explicit vote exchanges and implicit vote trades engineered by bundling issues in a single bill. We then focus on vote markets, where votes can be traded against a numeraire. We cover competitive markets, strategic market games, decentralized bargaining, and more centralized mechanisms, such as quadratic voting, where votes can be bought at a quadratic cost. We conclude with procedures allowing voters to shift votes across decisions -- to trade votes with oneself only -- such as storable votes or a modified form of quadratic voting. We find that vote trading and vote markets are typically inefficient; more encouraging results are obtained by allowing voters to allocate votes across decisions.