Cognitive Biases in Governing: Technology Preferences in Election Administration

Authors

  • Donald P. Moynihan,

    Corresponding author
    1. University of Wisconsin–Madison
    • Donald P. Moynihan is associate director of the La Follette School of Public Affairs at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. His research examines the application of organization theory to public management issues such as performance management, homeland security, election administration, and employee behavior. He is the author of The Dynamics of Performance Management: Constructing Information and Reform, winner of the best book award from the Academy of Management's Public and Nonprofit Division in 2009.
      E-mail:dmoynihan@lafollette.wisc.edu

      Stéphane Lavertu is assistant professor in the John Glenn School of Public Affairs at The Ohio State University. His research examines the design and policy-making authority of federal agencies, the role of federal advisory committees in executive branch policy making, the implementation of performance management reforms in federal agencies, the impact of deadlines on federal rulemaking, the local administration of elections, and the effect of charter schools on K-12 education.
      E-mail:lavertu.1@osu.edu

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  • Stéphane Lavertu

    Corresponding author
    1. The Ohio State University
    • Donald P. Moynihan is associate director of the La Follette School of Public Affairs at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. His research examines the application of organization theory to public management issues such as performance management, homeland security, election administration, and employee behavior. He is the author of The Dynamics of Performance Management: Constructing Information and Reform, winner of the best book award from the Academy of Management's Public and Nonprofit Division in 2009.
      E-mail:dmoynihan@lafollette.wisc.edu

      Stéphane Lavertu is assistant professor in the John Glenn School of Public Affairs at The Ohio State University. His research examines the design and policy-making authority of federal agencies, the role of federal advisory committees in executive branch policy making, the implementation of performance management reforms in federal agencies, the impact of deadlines on federal rulemaking, the local administration of elections, and the effect of charter schools on K-12 education.
      E-mail:lavertu.1@osu.edu

    Search for more papers by this author

Abstract

Cognitive biases are heuristics that shape individual preferences and decisions in a way that is at odds with means-end rationality. The effects of cognitive biases on governing are underexplored. The authors study how election administrators’ cognitive biases shape their preferences for e-voting technology using data from a national survey of local election officials. The technology acceptance model, which employs a rational, means-end perspective, suggests that the perceived benefits of e-voting machines explain their popularity. But findings indicate that cognitive biases also play a role, even after controlling for the perceived benefits and costs of the technology. The findings point to a novel cognitive bias that is of particular interest to research on e-government: officials who have a general faith in technology are attracted to more innovative alternatives. The authors also find that local election officials who prefer e-voting machines do so in part because they overvalue the technology they already possess and because they are overly confident in their own judgment.

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