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What Is The Probability Your Vote Will Make A Difference?

Author

Listed:
  • 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. (JEL H0)

Suggested Citation

  • Andrew Gelman & Nate Silver & Aaron Edlin, 2012. "What Is The Probability Your Vote Will Make A Difference?," Economic Inquiry, Western Economic Association International, vol. 50(2), pages 321-326, April.
  • Handle: RePEc:bla:ecinqu:v:50:y:2012:i:2:p:321-326
    DOI: j.1465-7295.2010.00272.x
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    File URL: https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1465-7295.2010.00272.x
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Citations

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    Cited by:

    1. Louis Kaplow & Scott Duke Kominers, 2020. "On the Representativeness of Voter Turnout," NBER Working Papers 26913, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    2. Christa N. Brunnschweiler & Colin Jennings & Ian A. MacKenzie, 2012. "Rebellion against Reason? A Study of Expressive Choice and Strikes," Working Paper Series 13012, Department of Economics, Norwegian University of Science and Technology.
    3. Jean-Robert Tyran & Alexander K. Wagner, 2016. "Experimental Evidence on Expressive Voting," Discussion Papers 16-12, University of Copenhagen. Department of Economics.
    4. Michael Geruso & Dean Spears & Ishaana Talesara, 2019. "Inversions in US Presidential Elections: 1836-2016," NBER Working Papers 26247, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    5. Coyne Christopher J. & Goodman Nathan & Hall Abigail R., 2019. "Sounding the Alarm: The Political Economy of Whistleblowing in the US Security State," Peace Economics, Peace Science, and Public Policy, De Gruyter, vol. 25(1), pages 1-11, February.
    6. Dwight R. Lee, 2021. "Ignoring the Electoral College: why public choice economists understate the probability of decisive voters," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 187(3), pages 439-454, June.
    7. Ilya Somin, 2021. "Freedom through foot voting," Economic Affairs, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 41(1), pages 141-152, February.
    8. Dan Usher, 2014. "An alternative explanation of the chance of casting a pivotal vote," Rationality and Society, , vol. 26(1), pages 105-138, February.
    9. Federico Revelli & Tsung-Sheng Tsai, 2019. "Ties," CESifo Working Paper Series 7786, CESifo.
    10. Lionel Page & Paul Antoine-Chevalier, 2016. "Zoon politikon or homo oeconomicus ? How do people vote?," QuBE Working Papers 037, QUT Business School.
    11. Michael Geruso & Dean Spears & Ishaana Talesara, 2022. "Inversions in US Presidential Elections: 1836–2016," American Economic Journal: Applied Economics, American Economic Association, vol. 14(1), pages 327-357, January.
    12. Barton, Jared & Rodet, Cortney, 2015. "Are political statements only expressive? An experiment," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 116(C), pages 174-186.
    13. Lirong Xia, 2020. "How Likely Are Large Elections Tied?," Papers 2011.03791, arXiv.org, revised Jul 2021.
    14. Louis Kaplow & Scott Duke Kominers, 2017. "Who will vote quadratically? Voter turnout and votes cast under quadratic voting," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 172(1), pages 125-149, July.
    15. Christopher J. Coyne & Thomas K. Duncan & Abigail R. Hall, 2021. "The political economy of state responses to infectious disease," Southern Economic Journal, John Wiley & Sons, vol. 87(4), pages 1119-1137, April.
    16. Brunnschweiler, Christa N. & Jennings, Colin & MacKenzie, Ian A., 2014. "A study of expressive choice and strikes," European Journal of Political Economy, Elsevier, vol. 34(C), pages 111-125.

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    JEL classification:

    • H0 - Public Economics - - General

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