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Why People Vote: Ethical Motives and Social Incentives


  • S. Nageeb Ali
  • Charles Lin


Some individuals vote because they are motivated by a civic duty to do so, whereas others may vote because they wish to appear prosocial to others. This paper proposes a simple framework that captures these motivations, and provides results consistent with findings on turnout, e.g., that turnout is responsive to the expected closeness and importance of an election, to the observability of one's choice to vote, and to social rewards and punishments associated with voting. We study various extensions of this framework in which community monitoring plays a role, and explore the implications that voter mobilization has for electoral competition. (JEL D03, D72)

Suggested Citation

  • S. Nageeb Ali & Charles Lin, 2013. "Why People Vote: Ethical Motives and Social Incentives," American Economic Journal: Microeconomics, American Economic Association, vol. 5(2), pages 73-98, May.
  • Handle: RePEc:aea:aejmic:v:5:y:2013:i:2:p:73-98
    Note: DOI: 10.1257/mic.5.2.73

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    Cited by:

    1. Piolatto, Amedeo & Schuett, Florian, 2015. "Media competition and electoral politics," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 130(C), pages 80-93.
    2. Emeric Henry & Charles Louis-Sidois, 2018. "Voting and Contributing While the Group is Watching," Sciences Po Economics Discussion Papers 2018-11, Sciences Po Departement of Economics.
    3. Bursztyn, Leonardo & Cantoni, Davide & Funk, Patricia & Yuchtman, Noam, 2017. "Polls, the Press, and Political Participation: The Effects of Anticipated Election Closeness on Voter Turnout," CEPR Discussion Papers 12088, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
    4. Andrew Jorgenson & Martin Saavedra, 2018. "The Electoral College, battleground states, and rule-utilitarian voting," Social Choice and Welfare, Springer;The Society for Social Choice and Welfare, vol. 51(4), pages 577-593, December.
    5. Leonardo Bursztyn & Davide Cantoni & Patricia Funk & Felix Schönenberger & Noam Yuchtman, 2017. "Identifying the Effect of Election Closeness on Voter Turnout: Evidence from Swiss Referenda," NBER Working Papers 23490, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    6. Praveen Kumar & Nisan Langberg & David Zvilichovsky, 2020. "Crowdfunding, Financing Constraints, and Real Effects," Management Science, INFORMS, vol. 66(8), pages 3561-3580, August.
    7. Torun Dewan & Christopher Kam & Jaakko Meriläinen & Janne Tukiainen, 2021. "Class, Social Mobility, and Voting: Evidence from Historical Voting Records," Discussion Papers 142, Aboa Centre for Economics.
    8. David K. Levine & Andrea Mattozzi, 2020. "Voter Turnout with Peer Punishment," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 110(10), pages 3298-3314, October.
    9. Daley, Brendan & Sadowski, Philipp, 2017. "Magical thinking: A representation result," Theoretical Economics, Econometric Society, vol. 12(2), May.
    10. Drew Fudenberg & David K Levine, 2016. "Whither Game Theory?," Levine's Working Paper Archive 786969000000001307, David K. Levine.
    11. Kohei Daido & Tomoya Tajika, 2020. "Abstention by Loss-Averse Voters," Discussion Paper Series 205, School of Economics, Kwansei Gakuin University.
    12. Alberto Grillo, 2020. "Ethical Voting in Heterogenous Groups," Working Papers halshs-02962464, HAL.
    13. Lyytikäinen, Teemu & Tukiainen, Janne, 2019. "Are voters rational?," European Journal of Political Economy, Elsevier, vol. 59(C), pages 230-242.
    14. Louis Kaplow & Scott Duke Kominers, 2020. "On the Representativeness of Voter Turnout," NBER Working Papers 26913, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    15. Alberto Grillo, 2020. "Ethical Voting in Heterogenous Groups," AMSE Working Papers 2034, Aix-Marseille School of Economics, France, revised Apr 2021.
    16. Stefano Dellavigna & John A. List & Ulrike Malmendier & Gautam Rao, 2017. "Voting to Tell Others," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 84(1), pages 143-181.
    17. Valentina A. Bali & Lindon J. Robison & Richard Winder, 2020. "What Motivates People to Vote? The Role of Selfishness, Duty, and Social Motives When Voting," SAGE Open, , vol. 10(4), pages 21582440209, October.
    18. Khalil, Umair & Mookerjee, Sulagna & Tierney, Ryan, 2019. "Social interactions in voting behavior: Evidence from india," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 163(C), pages 158-171.
    19. Ivar Kolstad & Arne Wiig, 2016. "How do voters respond to information on self-serving elite behaviour? Evidence from a randomized survey experiment in Tanzania," CMI Working Papers 9, CMI (Chr. Michelsen Institute), Bergen, Norway.
    20. N Lettinga & P O Jacquet & J-B André & N Baumand & C Chevallier, 2020. "Environmental adversity is associated with lower investment in collective actions," PLOS ONE, Public Library of Science, vol. 15(7), pages 1-23, July.
    21. Daniel Kling & Thomas Stratmann, 2016. "The Efficacy of Political Advertising: A Voter Participation Field Experiment with Multiple Robo Calls and Controls for Selection Effects," CESifo Working Paper Series 6195, CESifo.
    22. Name-Correa, Alvaro J. & Yildirim, Huseyin, 2019. "Social pressure, transparency, and voting in committees," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 184(C).
    23. Anida Krajina & Jakub Prochazka, 2018. "Motives behind voting and the perception of the motives: paradox of voting in Bosnia and Herzegovina," Eurasian Economic Review, Springer;Eurasia Business and Economics Society, vol. 8(3), pages 451-483, December.
    24. Ivar Kolstad & Arne Wiig, 2016. "How do voters respond to information on self-serving elite behaviour? Evidence from a randomized survey experiment in Tanzania," CMI Working Papers 9, CMI (Chr. Michelsen Institute), Bergen, Norway.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • D03 - Microeconomics - - General - - - Behavioral Microeconomics: Underlying Principles
    • D72 - Microeconomics - - Analysis of Collective Decision-Making - - - Political Processes: Rent-seeking, Lobbying, Elections, Legislatures, and Voting Behavior


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