This paper explores the ability of pivotal-voter models to explain voter behavior in small-scale elections
using data from Texas liquor referenda. The findings provide little support for the
view that pivotal-voter models are a reasonable theory for understanding small-scale
elections. Interestingly, this is not because they cannot explain the levels of turnout
in the data, but rather because they cannot explain the size of the winning margins.
The logic of pivotal-voter models implies that elections must be expected to be close
even if there is a significant difference between the sizes of the groups or the intensity
of their preferences. With even a relatively small number of eligible voters, elections
that are expected to be close ex ante must end up being close ex post. However, in
the data, winning margins are often significant.
Coate, Stephen, Conlin, Michael, and Andrea Moro. "The performance of pivotal-voter models in small-scale elections: Evidence from Texas liquor referenda,"
Journal of Public Economics 92(3-4),
pp. 582-596, April
title = "The performance of pivotal-voter models in small-scale elections: Evidence from Texas liquor referenda",
author = "Coate, Stephen and Conlin, Michael and Andrea Moro",
year = "2008",
month = " April",
journal = "Journal of Public Economics",
number = "3-4",
volume = "92",
pages = "582-596",
url = "http://www.andreamoro.net/assets/papers/the_performance_of_the_pivotal-voter_model.pdf"