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Today’s Agenda. Is it rational to vote (participate)? Why do people vote? (it doesn’t make sense) Vote or Die? Is lower participation really bad for the U.S.?. Voting in America. American citizens have more opportunities to vote than anyone else in the world.

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Presentation Transcript
Today s agenda
Today’s Agenda

  • Is it rational to vote (participate)?

  • Why do people vote?

    • (it doesn’t make sense)

  • Vote or Die?

    • Is lower participation really bad for the U.S.?


Voting in america
Voting in America

American citizens have more opportunities to vote than anyone else in the world.

Americans have up to 5 or 6 opportunities to vote per year!

(Can this help explain turnout “burnout?”)


Is it rational to vote
Is it rational to vote?

Reward = (Pr x B) - C

(Prob. of casting winning vote

x Benefits of your candidate in office)

– Costs of becoming informed and voting


Is it rational to vote1
Is it rational to vote?

  • What is the probability of you casting the winning vote in a large election?

  • Minimax regret theory


Is it rational to vote2
Is it rational to vote?

  • What is the probability of you casting the winning vote in a large election?

  • Extremely close to 0

    Reward = (0 x B) - C


Is it rational to vote3
Is it rational to vote?

  • Political scientists understand very clearly why many people DON’T vote.


Is it rational to vote4
Is it rational to vote?

  • Political scientists understand very clearly why many people DON’T vote.

  • What we can’t understand is why many people DO vote. That is a puzzle.



Get some satisfaction
Get Some Satisfaction:

From compliance with the DUTY of voting

From affirming allegiance to the political system

Of affirming a party preference

Of becoming informed and deciding

Of affirming one’s efficacy in the political system


So what are campaigns doing
So what are campaigns doing?

The goal of a campaign is to alter your perception of these probabilities, costs, and benefits

They exaggerate/clarify benefits, play down costs, and try to give you satisfaction (regardless of the outcome)




What happens
What happens?

By providing information (in the form of a “brand”), campaigns reduce cost of voting and clarify potential benefits

Perceptions of tight races make us misjudge probabilities (much like the lottery!)

Strong partisans or ideologues get satisfaction from casting their ballot


Who really votes anyway
Who really votes anyway?

Higher Education

Wealthier

Homeowners

Older people

Community involvement / Churchgoers

Strong partisans and ideologues

People contacted by a campaign

People who live in a competitive district


Fact or fiction
Fact or Fiction?

  • The U.S. has one of the lowest participation (voting) rates compared to almost every other Western democracy.

  • Fact

  • Fiction


Fact or fiction1
Fact or Fiction?

  • This is mostly because voters in the U.S. are the most apathetic (uncaring) citizens among these countries.

  • Fact

  • Fiction


What affects voter turnout
What affects voter turnout?

  • Institutional or contextual:

  • Collective action problem

  • Too many elections!

  • Lack of penalties

  • No voting holiday!

  • Single member districts over proportional representation

  • Less competitive elections

    • Less mobilization by elites

  • Lowering the voting age?


Mcdonald and popkin 2001
McDonald and Popkin 2001

  • The denominator in Voting Age Population has gone up over time, artificially decreasing turnout

    • Increase in # of non-citizens (mostly legal non-citizens)

    • Increase in number of prisoners



Is low turnout a problem
Is low turnout a problem?

Yes, dummy!

  • Participation transforms people

    (Like working out)


Is low turnout a problem1
Is low turnout a problem?

Yes, dummy!

  • Participation transforms people

    (Like working out)

    2) Demonstrates that our democracy is fake


Is low turnout a problem2
Is low turnout a problem?

Yes, dummy!

  • Participation transforms people

    (Like working out)

    2) Demonstrates that our democracy is fake

    3) Voters are different than non-voters


Is low turnout a problem3
Is low turnout a problem?

No, dummy!

  • Maybe people are satisfied


A protest to free paris hilton
A protest to “Free Paris Hilton”

Why did only 5 people show up?


Is low turnout a problem4
Is low turnout a problem?

No, dummy!

  • Maybe people are satisfied

    2) Why should we care about what uninterested people want?


Is low turnout a problem5
Is low turnout a problem?

No, dummy!

  • Maybe people are satisfied

    2) Why should we care about what uninterested people want?

    3) Results of elections wouldn’t change



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