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What is the probability your vote will make a difference?

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  • Andrew Gelman
  • Nate Silver
  • Aaron Edlin

Abstract

One of the motivations for voting is that one vote can make a difference. In a presidential election, the probability that your vote is decisive is equal to the probability that your state is necessary for an electoral college win, times the probability the vote in your state is tied in that event. We computed these probabilities a week before the 2008 presidential election, using state-by-state election forecasts based on the latest polls. The states where a single vote was most likely to matter are New Mexico, Virginia, New Hampshire, and Colorado, where your vote had an approximate 1 in 10 million chance of determining the national election outcome. On average, a voter in America had a 1 in 60 million chance of being decisive in the presidential election.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 15220.

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Date of creation: Aug 2009
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Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:15220

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  1. Casey B. Mulligan & Charles G. Hunter, 2000. "The Empirical Frequency of a Pivotal Vote," Working Papers 0025, Harris School of Public Policy Studies, University of Chicago.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. Douglas Hibbs, 2008. "Implications of the ‘bread and peace’ model for the 2008 US presidential election," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 137(1), pages 1-10, October.
  5. Aaron Edlin & Andrew Gelman & Noah Kaplan, 2007. "Voting as a Rational Choice: Why and How People Vote to Improve the Well-Being of Others," NBER Working Papers 13562, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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Cited by:
  1. Christa N. Brunnschweiler & Colin Jennings & Ian A. MacKenzie, 2012. "Rebellion against Reason? A Study of Expressive Choice and Strikes," CER-ETH Economics working paper series 12/162, CER-ETH - Center of Economic Research (CER-ETH) at ETH Zurich.
  2. Shayo, Moses & Harel, Alon, 2012. "Non-consequentialist voting," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 81(1), pages 299-313.
  3. Moses Shayo & Alon Harel, 2010. "Non-Consequentialist Voting," Discussion Paper Series dp545, The Center for the Study of Rationality, Hebrew University, Jerusalem.

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