Voting, Bargaining, and Political Institutions

Voting behavior and bargaining problems are enduring areas of research in political science and political economics. The experimental approach to these issues originated in the seminal work of Charles Plott and other researchers at Caltech in 1970s. They used experimental methods to examine effects of political institutions, agenda-setting rules, and voting behavior more generally. The current scholars affiliated with CTESS continue to investigate these topics both theoretically and experimentally.

In recent years, researchers have been conducting experiments to study different types of bargaining situations, both static and dynamic. Some of this research covers two-person bargaining games, while other research focuses on multilateral bargaining in committees with various institutional rules that govern bargaining process. The multilateral bargaining games have received a lot of attention in the literature, given that their main application is to study how legislatures reach decisions and how the agenda and proposal-making procedures affect legislative outcomes.

Our scholars are studying questions about proposer power, the effects of the voting rules, the status quo outcomes, the linkage of multiple decisions across time, and the decisions that involve public good investments in addition to the private allocations to specific committee members. Bargaining-with-voting experiments provide a bridge between experiments that focus exclusively on voting or political processes (such as voter turnout experiments or candidate competition in elections) and experiments that are interested in understanding behavior, pricing, and efficiency in more standard economic environments, such as auctions and market mechanisms.

Another type of research is focused on two-person bargaining where only one of the two players knows the value of what is to be shared. Game theory makes surprising and precise predictions about how they will share what is available and how often disagreements will arise. Researchers in CTESS have studied these games while measuring biophysical activity and facial emotion, using computer science methods from machine learning to predict what will happen from the bargaining moves players make and from their biophysical markers.

The following are a sampling of publications in this field by scholars affiliated with CTESS:

  • “What Makes Voters Turn Out: The Effects of Polls and Beliefs” (2018), Marina Agranov, Jacob Goeree, Julian Romero, and Leeat Yariv, Journal of the European Economic Association
  • “Dynamic Free Rider Problem: A Laboratory Study” (2016), Marco Battaglini, Salvatore Nunnari, and Thomas Palfrey, American Economic Journal: Microeconomics
  • “Static and Dynamic Underinvestment: An Experimental Investigation” (2016), Marina Agranov, Guillaume Fréchette, Thomas Palfrey, and Emanuel Vespa, Journal of Public Economics
  • “Dynamic Unstructured Bargaining with Private Information: Theory and Experiment” (2018), Colin Camerer, Gideon Nave, and Alec Smith, Management Science
  • “Can Words Get in the Way? The Effect of Deliberation in Collective Decision-Making” (2018), Matias Iaryczower, Xiaoxia Shi, and Matt Shum, Journal of Political Economy

Return to the CTESS research overview page here.