"Impressionable Voters"

Costel Andonie, City University of Hong Kong

Daniel Diermeier, The University of Chicago


We propose a model of impressionable voters. Impressionable voters pay limited attention to candidates in an election and vote based on impressions rather than maximizing expected utility. We then apply our model to elections with multiple candidates and solve for the stationary distributions of the implied stochastic process. We show that elections with impressionable voters may exhibit momentum effects. In elections with two candidates, however, we find that impressionable voters select the candidate that maximizes utilitarian welfare. In multi-candidate elections with a fully attentive electorate Condorcet winners are elected provided that a majority of voters is able to sufficiently distinguish competing candidates. In such cases models with impressionable voters may have better normative properties than models with rational voters. Inability to sufficiently distinguish candidates, however, can lead to the defeat of a Condorcet winner, and, in such situations, typically, lower attentiveness yields superior outcomes. These results point to the crucial role of the media in shaping election outcomes with impressionable voters.