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Voting as a Rational Choice

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  • Edlin, Aaron
  • Gelman, Andrew
  • Kaplan, Noah
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    Abstract

    For voters with ‘social’ preferences, the expected utility of voting is approximately independent of the size of the electorate, suggesting that rational voter turnouts can be substantial even in large elections. Less important elections are predicted to have lower turnout, but a feedback mechanism keeps turnout at a reasonable level under a wide range of conditions. The main contributions of this paper are: (1) to show how, for an individual with both selfish and social preferences, the social preferences will dominate and make it rational for a typical person to vote even in large elections; (2) to show that rational socially motivated voting has a feedback mechanism that stabilizes turnout at reasonable levels (e.g.,50% of the electorate); (3) to link the rational social-utility model of voter turnout with survey findings on socially motivated vote choice.

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    Bibliographic Info

    Paper provided by Berkeley Olin Program in Law & Economics in its series Berkeley Olin Program in Law & Economics, Working Paper Series with number qt0x3780rb.

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    Date of creation: 07 Apr 2008
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    Handle: RePEc:cdl:oplwec:qt0x3780rb

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    Related research

    Keywords: elections; turnout; sociotropic voting; rational choice;

    References

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    1. Chamberlain, Gary & Rothschild, Michael, 1981. "A note on the probability of casting a decisive vote," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 25(1), pages 152-162, August.
    2. Gelman, Andrew & Katz, Jonathan N. & Bafumi, Joseph, 2002. "Standard Voting Power Indexes Don't Work: An Empirical Analysis," Working Papers 1133, California Institute of Technology, Division of the Humanities and Social Sciences.
    3. Gelman, Andrew & Katz, Jonathan N. & Tuerlinckx, Francis, 2002. "The Mathematics and Statistics of Voting Power," Working Papers 1141, California Institute of Technology, Division of the Humanities and Social Sciences.
    4. Anthony Downs, 1957. "An Economic Theory of Political Action in a Democracy," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 65, pages 135.
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