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Political Science
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Political psychology
Voting behavior
Political economic systems
Personality aspects
Biological aspects

Biopolitics Genopolitics Neuropolitics


Whether to vote or not[]

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.[1] 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.[2]

The basic formula for determining whether someone will vote is

[3]

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.[4] 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).[5][6] 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[7] and political participation.[8] 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[]

  • Satoshi Kanazawa. "A Possible Solution to the Paradox of Voter Turnout." The Journal of Politics. p. 974
  • Kanazawa p. 975
  • The basic idea behind this formula was developed by Anthony Downs in 1957, the formula itself was developed by William H. Riker and Peter Ordeshook in 1968.
  • Riker and Ordeshook, 1968
  • Jankowski, Richard. 2002. "Buying a Lottery Ticket to Help the Poor: Altruism, Civic Duty, and Self-Interest in the Decision to Vote." Rationality and Society 14(1): 55–77.
  • Edlin, Aaron, Andrew Gelman, and Noah Kaplan. 2007. "Voting as a Rational Choice: Why and How People Vote to Improve the Well-Being of Others." Rationality and Society.
  • Fowler, James H. "Altruism and Turnout," Journal of Politics 68 (3): 674–683 (August 2006)
  • Fowler, James H., Kam CD "Beyond the Self: Altruism, Social Identity, and Political Participation," Journal of Politics 69 (3): 811–825 (August 2007)
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