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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Information and interests in the absence of partisan endorsements : efficient decision-making in the British Columbia referendum on electoral reform Hooper, Graeme Andrew

Abstract

This thesis examines how voter decision-making was affected by the absence of partisan endorsements in the 2005 B.C. referendum on electoral reform. In particular, it is hypothesized that parties’ positions of neutrality were sufficiently obscure to have been missed by most voters, with those voters who incorrectly inferred a position of support or opposition using their feelings towards the particular party to determine their alignment with the perceived party position. The adverse effects of such mistaken inferences should be mitigated by increasing information, with higher-information voters capable of spreading decisions across complex measures of interest. Two such measures are proposed. First, voters could rely on their feelings towards parties, as the single transferable vote (STV) was generally accepted to be bad for the large parties. Second, voters could rely on the likelihood that their vote would be wasted under the current electoral system, as STV was generally accepted to reduce wasted votes. Analysis of survey data confirms that a majority of respondents missed the party positions of neutrality, with even high-information respondents demonstrating little ability to pick up on the correct position. Further, respondents who incorrectly inferred a position of support or opposition from one of the major parties used their feelings towards that party to determine their alignment with the perceived position. While the data confirms that increasing information mitigates these adverse effects, it does not support the hypothesis that such occurs because of reliance on complex measures of interests. While other high information voters were able to activate these interests, high-information voters who were using incorrectly inferred partisan endorsements showed little or no capacity to do so.

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