Biases in elections with well-informed voters: Evidence from public voting for football awards

Nolan Kopkin, Andrew Roberts*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Objectives: How much does group membership influence voting behavior? This article adds to existing work by considering a novel context where voting is public and voters are well-informed. Methods: The article analyzes public votes in a prominent award for the best football player in the world. It uses ordered probit regressions to assess the extent to which votes by players, coaches, and journalists are related to national, regional, cultural, racial, and religious affinities between voters and candidates controlling for measures of player performance and celebrity. Results: The estimates indicate that while player performance does matter, a number of group-based characteristics continue to influence voting. Some of these effects appear to be rooted in incentives—a tendency to vote for co-nationals and teammates—but others—such as a tendency to vote based on geographical, racial, and religious similarities—are rooted more in group affinities. Conclusions: The analysis provides relatively strong support for the group-based theory of democracy championed by Achen and Bartels as opposed to a theory of democracy founded on individual rational choice. The specific case considered suggests that more attention should be given to the composition of juries that choose the winners of prizes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1551-1571
Number of pages21
JournalSocial Science Quarterly
Issue number7
StatePublished - Dec 2022


  • Ballon d'Or
  • awards
  • bias
  • football
  • prejudice
  • voting

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Social Sciences


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