Marco Faravelli, & Santiago Sanchez-Pages, School of Economics Discussion Paper No. 464 June 2012, School of Economics, The University of Queensland. Australia.


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Proponents of proportional electoral rules often argue that majority rule depresses turnout and may lower welfare due to the “tyranny of the majority” problem. The present paper studies the impact of electoral rules on turnout and social welfare. We analyze a model of instrumental voting where citizens have private information over their individual cost of voting and over the alternative they prefer. The electoral rule used to select the winning alternative is a combination of majority rule and proportional rule. Results show that the above arguments against majority rule do not hold in this set up. Social welfare and turnout increase with the weight that the electoral rule gives to majority rule when the electorate is expected to be split, and they are independent of the electoral rule employed when the expected size of the minority group tends to zero. However, more proportional rules can increase turnout within the minority group. This e¤ect is stronger the smaller the minority group. We then conclude that majority rule fosters overall turnout and increases social welfare, whereas proportional rule fosters the participation of minorities.