Monday, November 26, 2007

Why Vote?

In addition to Thanksgiving and Veteran's Day, the month of November is probably best known as election month. Year after year, neither rain nor sleet nor gloom of night, etc. dissuades a significant portion of the public from trudging to the polls to cast their votes for offices from local city councils through the presidency of the country. But, why??

As a rational, self-interested individual, voting is a poor investment. It is costly - it takes time to become at least mildly informed (assuming you are not just voting randomly) and to travel to the polls on election day. The individual benefit is nearly non-existent. The likelihood that your vote will change the results in nearly nil, and it's questionable how much you would personally benefit if your one vote did make the difference in electing the candidate of your choice. Yet, significant numbers of people do vote. Curious.

Here's a 2005 article from the authors of Freakonomics discussing the issue. They summarize some research from Sweden that seems to indicate that one significant reason people vote is social pressure. So, people receive utility from the process of voting not just the outcome.

No comments:

Post a Comment