Panel Paper: Is Voting Based on Economic Self-Interest?

Friday, March 9, 2018
Burkle 14 (Burkle Family Building at Claremont Graduate University)

*Names in bold indicate Presenter

Trenton Chen Jin, George Washington University

Many economic models assume that voting outcomes are based on the economic self-interest of the median voter. Political scientists have also relied on the affective influence of a candidate is based on a perception of shared values and culture. Recently Krasa and Polborn (2014) have constructed theoretical economic models in which voters trade off social ideology for economic advantage. This paper tests the hypothesis that voters willingly trade off economic self-interest for social ideology.

The test is based on a natural experiment in which the elected local government of the District of Columbia (DC) was suddenly removed and replaced with an unelected Financial Control Board (FCB) that ran the city from 1995 to 2001. Because DC is a small enclave in the city of Washington, economic effects of differences in local government operations are capitalized into real estate values can be compared to proximate locations across the DC border. Because neighborhoods in DC differed sharply in their support for the incumbent government that was removed,

The experimental design tests the relation between changes in property values in DC neighborhoods and voting behavior in those neighborhoods. The self-interest voting hypothesis predicts that imposition of the FCB should differentially benefit neighborhoods that did not previously support the elected government. Empirical results refute this prediction. Indeed there is some evidence that real estate values rise fastest in neighborhoods whose support was the strongest for the government that was removed.