Altruistic Punishment in Elections

Jason A. Aimone, Luigi Butera, Thomas Stratmann

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review


Altruistic punishment is a fundamental driver for cooperation in human interactions. In this paper, we expand our understanding of this form of pro-social behavior to help explain a puzzle of voting: why do individuals who are indifferent between two potential policy outcomes of an election participate when voting is costly? Using a simple voting experiment, we provide robust evidence that many voters are willing to engage in voting as a form of punishment, even when voting is costly and the voter has no monetary stake in the election outcome. In our sample, and in a robustness check through Monte Carlo simulation, we show that at least fourteen percent of individuals are willing to incur a cost to vote against candidates who broke their electoral promises, even when they have no pecuniary interest in the election outcome.
Original languageEnglish
JournalEuropean Journal of Political Economy
Pages (from-to)149-160
Number of pages12
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2018
Externally publishedYes


  • Voting
  • Altruistic punishment
  • Laboratory experiment

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