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Polls, coalition signals and strategic voting: An experimental investigation of perceptions and effects


Michael F. Meffert, Department of Political Science, Leiden University, Wassenaarseweg 52, 2333 AK Leiden, The Netherlands. Tel.: +31 71 527 3862; Fax: +31 71 527 3815; E-mail:


Polls and coalition signals can help strategic voters in multiparty systems with proportional representation and coalition governments to optimise their vote decision. Using a laboratory experiment embedded in two real election campaigns, this study focuses on voters' attention to and perception of polls and coalition signals. The manipulation of polls and coalition signals allows a causal test of their influence on strategic voting in a realistic environment. The findings suggest that active information acquisition to form fairly accurate perceptions of election outcomes can compensate for the advantage of high political sophistication. The theory of strategic voting is supported by the evidence, but only for a small number of voters. Most insincere vote decisions are explained by other factors. Thus, the common practice to consider all insincere voters as strategic is misleading.