Why You Should Vote


Psychology Today, Nov 2, 2018


I’ve discussed in several past posts the fact that the traditional view of economic theory regarding voting and democracy varies from the more nuanced view supported by behavioral and experimental economists. The oft-heard idea that your vote doesn’t count comes quite close to the traditional view of economic theory, which says, more precisely, that you have a vanishingly small chance of affecting most electoral outcomes, so it’s irrational to vote if it carries any cost to you. This leaves it to theories of social norms, conditional cooperation, and identity to explain why many people vote in spite of the “rational actor theory” predictions. However, we don’t only have to explain why some people vote, but also why many people don’t vote, acting as if they’ve taken the old conventional theory to heart. The more people fail to vote, the belief that votes don’t matter becomes closer to a self-fulfilling prophecy. Our right to choose our leaders by voting is only a few generations old, and today’s democracies, including the United States, may be standing now in a genuine “use it or lose it” moment.

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