Thursday, November 09, 2006

Economics of Voting

In honor of the elections a few days ago, I think the question of why people vote is an interesting one. Statistically, the probability that your vote will decide the election is basically 0%. Additionally, it is costly in terms of time and effort to vote. Therefore, why do people vote? (I am not by any means saying that people should not vote, I am just interested in why people are compelled to do something that on the face of it seems to have no concrete benefit).

Here are some additional resources for the question and discussion:

12 comments:

Anonymous said...

Since people do not gain any concrete reward for voting, why do people vote? I think that voting is a right for people to vote and have an opinion for the democracy they live in. The thing is that voting does take time and doesn't reward. This doesn't really matter. People should vote and show their interest in the candidates and polls. Voting is a way to control our democracy.
Like you posted last year, 1910's race in Buffalo was the only race that was supposedly decided by one vote. So you see, your vote does count. Even if it is not the deciding vote, you are able to have an opinion and somewhat of a choice in the elections. If no one voted, we wouldn't really have a democracy. When I turn 18, I fully intend to vote even if my vote has a 0% chance of being an importance in the elections. I guess people vote because they want their vote and opinion to be counted.
-> Morgan Hale

Anonymous said...

I think that people probably vote even though they know that their one vote will make a difference because they can feel as though they have helped their candidate anyway. If everyone had the attitude that their vote did not count, so they did not go to the polls, then the principles of democracy would be lost. Our government is not really for the people and by the people if the people do not care what is going on. In addition, you cannot complain about the government if you are not doing something to change it. It would be very hypocritical for someone who did not vote to say that he hated our president and did not like how our country was run. You do not even have to be very involved in politics to vote. As long as you know which representatives seem to fit your views you are set. Obviously the more you know about the candidates, the more accurate your views of them would be, but even without a plethora of knowledge about the candidates you still have voting power. People vote so that they will know that they did their best to get the candidate that they favored into office. Though it wastes time, energy, money, gas, etc, Americans vote because they receive some utils of enjoyment from it. They can feel better knowing that they tried to make a difference instead of just being on the sidelines. Morgan brings up the idea that there is not really a reward for voting, but there could potentially be one or a consequence of not voting at least. If you vote, you could be rewarded by the fact that your candidate won and you helped. If you dont vote and your candidate loses, you will see the consequences. Maybe it wasn't your vote that made them win or lose, but it gives potential voters something to think about... if they aren't going to vote are they willing to give up their democratic liberties to those around them?
-Natalie

Anonymous said...

I believe that our society as a whole encourages us to vote. The more people that vote, the better representation the results will show what people actually think. Young people statistically are not likely to vote. This does change later in their life otherwise eventually, no one would vote. When a decision that some leader makes directly affects that person, they become more interested in choosing who that person is. Every vote will help a side and because enough people vote, one vote is normally insignificant.

-Brian Meier

Anonymous said...

Although a single person's vote will never make a difference and you have to spend time waitng in line to vote, people vote because they gain personal pleasure from doing so. It is like in religion as there is no money given to you for going to church, but you are rewrded because you think you are doing the right thing. According to Mr. Killian the majority of people don't vote and it is most likely because they know that their vote will not make a difference.
- Chirs G.

Anonymous said...

So I think I have a different outlook on this than the people that have thus far posted. After just having voted for my first time only a few days ago, I found this experience somewhat different than I had imagined. First of all, I'm not going to lie,i mostly voted for the same people as my parents because I didn't really know who anyone was...however, when i got there, the line was not long and the process was actually painless. I had imagined a really long wait, but it was quick. Anyways, I guess the main reason people vote is because they can. I just wanted to use my right to vote. It was cool to be part of something so huge, even if you really don't make a huge difference. The process was somehow anticlimatic though. It wasn't nearly as big of a deal as I had expected. I don't really know what I had expected...but it wasn't it. I guess what I'm trying to say is, I didn't really vote because I wanted my vote to count...I voted because it had been something I haven't been able to do for 18 years. It's like driving. You wait for 16 years to drive, and when you get your liscence you want to drive all the time, even if it's to the grocery store.

-John Schmidt

Anonymous said...

I do not think that traditional individual economics can be applied to a problem such as voting. There is not obvious benefit to a voter other than the enjoyment of supporting their beliefs. Also the fact that so many people vote is likely to decrease individual turnout. Because people do not get any benefit from voting direct (especially if their candidate loses) there must be something causing the drive to vote. For example in Iraq during the recent election almost 75% of the eligible population voted despite threats of violence and terrorism. I think the issue of voting is similar to that of recycling. Saving energy or recycling aluminum cans does not help the individual directly but if all of society participates the rewards are great. I do not think voting can be analyzed economically on an individual basis.

Anonymous said...

-chip

Anonymous said...

I do not see why more people do not vote. Even if they dont agree with whose in office, then why dont they try to get someone else elected who they support. Some one might say that their vote does not count towards anything and if millions of people in the US think this same thing, then you could say our democratic way of voting is flawed because it does not fully represent the citizens of the US. I voted for the first time this past tuesday, and it was cool to say that you actually had an impact on the election. Because eventhough you vote does count for about 0% there are millions of other voters who make that small percent become a victory for a canidate. So i believe that more people should use their right to vote to support the US and try to have a say in its government.
----Taylor----

Anonymous said...

I like this blog post becuase it is so true that it cost alot of time to vote, and realistically a single persons vote will not have any influence. However if every did not show up to the poles there would be a problem. I noticed chip said he did not think economics really applied to voting,and i agree with him. Sure its a hassle and your vote doesnt matter that much, but i think alot of people whether contiously or subcountiously vote becuase we are allowed to do it. There are plenty on non republican or democratic countries around the world where the people would love to vote. I also think people vote because it is almost culturally cool to be interested in politics and have a side and an opinion. I know i have heard many political debates and been impressed by them. Also i think people vote because just in case their candidate wins they can take credit for the candidate and just incase their cadidate loses they can complain about the elected official becuase they attempted to elect the other peson
-seth weilan
ps. please diregrad my email the Natster hooked me up with the address

Anonymous said...

I think it is essential that everyone vote. This past election I got to vote for the first time and when the people I voted for won, I was pretty excited. Although I know that my vote didn't decide anything, it helped and that's all I can do. If everyone had the idea in their heads that their vote doesn't count, then noone would vote. Eventually because noone votes, a single persons vote will start to really make a difference.
In this election it was extremely important for everyone to vote because the races in Virginia and Montana were key in deciding whether the democrats or republicans would take control of the house and senate. In Virginia the elections were so close that every vote mattered, and if people cared about who was running and if they cared about the decisions that are going to be made in the future of our country, they should have voted.

Anonymous said...

-Hope Johnson (sorry)

Brian Zabell said...

If civic duty outweighs the cost of time and possible voter apathy, the person will vote.

Apathy is driven up by candidates sliding toward moderation on issues, our single-member district system (instead of proportional representation, discouraging others to voting for an "unpopular" party), and negative campaigning.

Moderation is the biggest player in voter apathy in the US, followed by our single-member district system.