Discussion paper

DP15201 Does Vote Trading Improve Welfare?

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.


Casella, A and A Macé (2020), ‘DP15201 Does Vote Trading Improve Welfare?‘, CEPR Discussion Paper No. 15201. CEPR Press, Paris & London. https://cepr.org/publications/dp15201