Friday, November 09, 2007

Voting: still rational

Andrew Gelman on the rationality of voting:
If your vote is decisive, it will make a difference for 300 million people. If you think your preferred candidate could bring the equivalent of a $50 improvement in the quality of life to the average American--not an implausible hope, given the size of the Federal budget and the impact of decisions in foreign policy, health, the courts, and other areas--you're now buying a $1.5 billion lottery ticket. With this payoff, a 1 in 10 million chance of being decisive isn't bad odds.

Gelman also address the old voting-is-irrational argument, propagated this week by the Freakonomics authors once again. Here's Gelman's blog.
Here's a previous entry I wrote linking to articles by Gelman and others on the rationality of voting.


Nick said...

this is interesting, and it's nice to see the old expected value scale has tipped back in favor of voting. But I still feel like it's not the intuitive reasoning behind why I, and others, choose to vote. I don't know how to put math to this logic, but I feel like I vote because I want everyone like me to vote. And if I let myself not vote, I fear that many others like myself are doing the same thing. So I feel like I vote (and then wear the sticker and talk about how voting is good) so that a lot more people will vote, thus having a hopefully non-trivial effect. Feel me?

David Archer said...

I'm with you. I mean, the idea that there is a single reason behind all voting is more than a little absurd. Some people vote because they care about the issues or candidates, others simply feel an obligation, and still others vote just to be seen voting to signal their level civic participation to peers, and so on.
It's overdetermined!

somebody said...