Journal Article

Bandwagons and Momentum in Sequential Voting

Steven Callander

in The Review of Economic Studies

Published on behalf of Review of Economic Studies Ltd

Volume 74, issue 3, pages 653-684
Published in print July 2007 | ISSN: 0034-6527
Published online July 2007 | e-ISSN: 1467-937X | DOI:
Bandwagons and Momentum in Sequential Voting

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  • Analysis of Collective Decision-making


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In this paper I show that an equilibrium exists to the sequential voting game in which a bandwagon begins with probability 1. These bandwagons are driven by a combination of beliefs and the desire of voters to vote for the winning candidate. Significantly, in this equilibrium the pivot probability for each voter is non-zero, even in an infinite population. Consequently, the bandwagons do not always start after one (or at most two) favourable decisions (as do economic cascades) and varying levels of informative voting are observed, consistent with observations from sequential voting in U.S. presidential primaries. Further, voters are exposed to counterintuitive incentives, referred to as “buyers' remorse”, that have been attributed to real primary voters.

I also derive equilibrium behaviour in this environment when voting is simultaneous and compare the quality of information aggregation within each mechanism. I relate the conclusions to U.S. presidential primaries and find they are consistent with a common conclusion about the front-loading of the primary process: that in tight elections (with no front-runner) simultaneous voting is preferred, whereas in lopsided elections sequential voting is preferred. The superior performance of sequential voting in lopsided races is precisely because bandwagons occur.

Keywords: D72

Journal Article.  17350 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Analysis of Collective Decision-making

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