Deliberative Structures and their Impact on Voting under Economic Conflict

Abstract

Inequalities in democracies not only involve economic differences, but also differences in access to information and social influence. We identify the tragedy of the informed: Privileged access to information about economic conditions can create lying incentives. In a laboratory experiment, we study an electorate that consists of two groups, one informed and one uninformed about an uncertain state of the economy. Incentives depend on this state. Before voting the two groups can communicate. In addition to a treatment without communication, we study three different deliberative structures that vary in how much the uninformed can partake, i.e., in inclusiveness. We hypothesize that these deliberative structures affect preferences and voting and that their efficiency-enhancing effect on voting outcomes increases with increasing inclusiveness. This predicted efficiency ranking is confirmed by the data, but the differences in total expected earnings are not statistically significant, despite significant differences in voting behavior. We find three reasons for this unpredicted flatness of the efficiency ranking: First, the uninformed do not anticipate how lying behavior of the informed varies with the deliberative structure. Second, compared to the other deliberative structures, fully inclusive deliberation better allows the uninformed to coordinate -not only alongside the informed, but also against them. Third, the back-and-forth of communication and votes leads to growing animosity between the informed and the uninformed and hence to a deterioration of economic consensus.