Chameleon Voters and Public Choice

Timur Kuran

A model is presented of an open-voting public choice process that features pressure groups vying for society's support. Individuals choose what policy to advocate on the basis of their private preferences, which are those they would express in a secret ballot; endogenous social pressures; and the utility they gain from integrity. They falsify their preferences when the benefits of doing so outweigh the costs. An implication is that a policy advocated by few people in private might receive strong public support. The paper goes on to explore why secret voting, which eliminates this possibility, might not be adopted.

Public Choice, 53 (1987): 53-78.