Voting under uncertainty: the effect of information in the Scottish independence referendum

2016-05-03T06:07:52Z (GMT) by Davide Morisi

Despite extensive research on campaign effects, the issue of whether information can actually influence vote choice in a campaign remains debatable. This study provides novel evidence of how issue-based arguments influenced voting preferences in the campaign for the 2014 Scottish independence referendum. The findings, based on a lab experiment and a follow-up survey with the experimental subjects, show that provision of information lead to a one-sided persuasion effect, by increasing the support for independence mainly through reduction of indecision. This effect occurred regardless of the possibility to select the arguments and found further confirmation in the actual increase of Yes votes in the referendum. Additional analyses reveal that personal economic expectations significantly moderated the effect of information, since the support for independence increased only among those who did not expect future economic gains. In line with prospect theory, these results suggest that risk-based calculations and economic perceptions prove important determinants of voting decisions, especially in a context of asymmetrical vote choice between an uncertain “Yes for a change” and a safe “No for the status quo”.