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Rethinkning voter rationality December 22, 2008

Posted by Sverre in : Political behavior, Political economy , trackback

A very interesting paper by Andrew Gelman and a few more, linked to in a post at The Monkey Cage, proved to be very much to my liking. They look at the act of voting from a rational actor perspective, but leave the premise that “rationality” is equal to “selfishness”. That means they give the voter a preference for the good of everyone else, thereby showing that voting can be a rational act.

What’s the logic behind this? Well, if you sum up the benefit every member of society would get from an election outcome, the number could become quite big, compensating for the low likelihood that your vote is the one that will decide. Thus if the cost of voting is rather low, it might still be worth it. This actually sounds rather reasonable. Perhaps voting might be rational.

The perceived benefit society could get from voting is of course limited by how much you actually believe candidates will follow through their policies. Also, the benefit of voting might have to be discounted by a factor reflecting to what degree you believe the election will be fair. This might explain why the big proportion of the voters that don’t participate still aren’t necessarily selfish either.

It gives me solace to know that I now have a scientific vay to explain that people that vote aren’t stupid and people in general aren’t necessarily selfish.


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