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Why Do You Vote and Vote as You Do?

Listed author(s):
  • Fredrik Carlsson
  • Olof Johansson-Stenman

The conventional rational voter model has problems explaining why people vote, since the costs typically exceed the expected benefits. This paper presents Swedish survey evidence regarding i) Why people vote, ii) Why people vote as they do and their beliefs about why others vote as they do, and iii) How bad not voting and voting selfishly are perceived to be. Large majorities find it important to vote in order to affect the outcome, because it is a democratic obligation to vote, and because they want to express their political views. While most respondents say that they and others vote as they do both because of self-interest and because of conviction, people generally believe that they themselves vote less selfishly than do others, consistent with the hypothesis that people wish to have a self-image of being a good person. Moreover, people tend to believe that others with similar political views as themselves vote less selfishly than do people with the opposite political views, which is consistent with social identity theory. The norm saying that it is bad not to vote appears to be much stronger than the norm against voting selfishly. Women and older individuals are more affected by the norm saying that it is an obligation to vote. A majority believe it is unethical to vote for a certain party out of self-interest, although right-wing persons believe so to a lower extent. Copyright © 2010 Blackwell Publishing Ltd.

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Article provided by Wiley Blackwell in its journal Kyklos.

Volume (Year): 63 (2010)
Issue (Month): 4 (November)
Pages: 495-516

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Handle: RePEc:bla:kyklos:v:63:y:2010:i:4:p:495-516
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