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Whether to vote or not[edit | edit source]
In any large election the chance of any one vote influencing the outcome is low; a single vote in a voting scheme such as the Electoral College in the United States has an even lower chance of influencing the outcome. This causes a difficulty for rational choice theory, in that it seems that a rational individual should not vote. Studies using game theory, which takes into account the ability of voters to interact, have also found that the expected turnout for any large election should be zero.
The basic formula for determining whether someone will vote is
Here, P is the probability that an individual's vote will affect the outcome of an election, and B is the perceived benefit of that person's favored political party or candidate being elected. D originally stood for democracy or civic duty, but today represents any social or personal gratification an individual gets from voting. C is the time, effort, and financial cost involved in voting. Since P is virtually zero in most elections, PB is also near zero, and D is thus the most important element in motivating people to vote. For a person to vote, these factors must outweigh C.
Riker and Ordeshook developed the modern understanding of D. They listed five major forms of gratification that people receive for voting: complying with the social obligation to vote; affirming one's allegiance to the political system; affirming a partisan preference (also known as expressive voting, or voting for a candidate to express support, not to achieve any outcome); affirming one's importance to the political system; and, for those who find politics interesting and entertaining, researching and making a decision. Other political scientists have since added other motivators and questioned some of Riker and Ordeshook's assumptions. All of these concepts are inherently imprecise, making it difficult to discover exactly why people choose to vote.
Recently, several scholars have considered the possibility that B includes not only a personal interest in the outcome, but also a concern for the welfare of others in the society (or at least other members of one's favorite group or party). In particular, experiments in which subject altruism was measured using a dictator game showed that concern for the well-being of others is a major factor in predicting turnout and political participation. Note that this motivation is distinct from D, because voters must think others benefit from the outcome of the election, not their act of voting in and of itself.
See also[edit | edit source]
- Calculus of voting
- Political attitudes
- Political elections
- Political issues
- Political psychology
- Voting turnout