May 19: Alberto GRILLO's PhD thesis

May 19, 2020 Research

Alberto GRILLO will defend his thesis on Economics on "Essays in Political Economics: On the Determinants and Patterns of Voter Turnout" next Tuesday 19 May 2020 via Zoom Meeting. (3 PM)
If you want to join the meeting, please contact Philippe De Donder.

Supervisor: Philippe DE DONDER, Senior researcher, CNRS-TSE

Memberships are:

  • Philippe DE DONDER, Senior researcher, CNRS-TSE
  • Micael CASTANHEIRA, Professor, University Libre de Bruxelles
  • Arnaud DELLIS, Professor, University of Québec at Montréal
  • Karine VAN DER STRAETEN, Senior researcher, CNRS-TSE


This thesis consists of three chapters in political economics. The central theme spanning all chapters is the analysis of voter turnout.

This first chapter studies voter turnout and candidates' strategies in a spatial model of political competition. The framework combines citizens' ethical motivation to vote with abstention due to indifference and alienation, i.e. from voters equally close to the competing candidates or too far from all of them. In contrast to a median voter result, candidates diverge from the center if voters are polarized and prone to alienation, by proposing radical policies as a mobilization strategy to increase their supporters' turnout. The analysis of participation at the individual level sheds light on how ethical supporters can share the costs of voting for their candidate, depending on the intensity of their preference. Comparative statics results are in line with the empirical evidence on electoral participation and polarization of voters and candidates.

The second chapter is motivated by the evidence of bandwagon effects in voting experiments, driven by higher turnout rates among the members of the majority group.This evidence is, however, in contrast with a standard pivotal voter model of electoral participation, which predicts that minority supporters should participate at a higher rate, given the higher probability of casting a pivotal vote. The model reconciles this discrepancy by showing that a bandwagon effect can be generated within the pivotalvoter model by concavity in the voters' utility function, which makes electoral participation more costly for the expected loser supporters. Given the strict relationship between concavity and risk aversion, the paper establishes the role of risk aversion as a determinant

of bandwagon.

The third chapter studies a model of costly voting in which citizens care about the legitimate mandate of the government formed by the winning group. Such a measure of mandate depends on both the margin of victory and the total turnout rate. The main result highlights that the supposed positive relationship between turnout and mandate can be reversed in equilibrium: an increase in the relative importance of turnout for the mandate can decrease the former but increase the latter, moving the two variables in opposite directions. The mechanism at play is a shift in the relative participation of the competing groups, which yields a higher margin of victory for the majority group. The model offers an additional reason for a bandwagon effect, due to the lower participation of minority voters who do not want to increase an opposing government's mandate.