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How Election Polls Shape Voting Behavior

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We investigate how election information such as opinion polls can influence voting intention. The bandwagon effect claims that voters ‘float along’: a party experiencing increased support receives more support and vice versa. Through a large national survey experiment we find evidence of a bandwagon effect among Danish voters. When voters are exposed to a news story describing either an upwards or downwards movement for either a small or large party, they tend to move their voting intentions in the according direction. The effect is strongest in the positive direction, i.e., when a party experiences increased support more follows. We find consistent effects across two different parties, for a diverse national sample in a political context very different from those that have characterized earlier research on the bandwagon effects. Considering previous research and the fact that we do not find evidence that suggests that the effect of polls vary across socio-demographic groups, our results imply that bandwagon behavior is based not on social or political contingencies, such as media or political institution, but on fundamentals of political cognition.

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