IDEAS home Printed from https://ideas.repec.org/a/sae/ratsoc/v19y2007i3p293-314.html
   My bibliography  Save this article

Voting as a Rational Choice

Author

Listed:
  • Aaron Edlin

    (Department of Economics and School of Law, University of California, Berkeley, USA, aedlin@econ.columbia.edu)

  • Andrew Gelman

    (Department of Statistics and Department of Political Science, Columbia University, New York, USA, gelman@stat.columbia.edu)

  • Noah Kaplan

    (Department of Political Science, University of Houston, Texas, USA, nkaplan@uh.edu)

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 .

Suggested Citation

  • Aaron Edlin & Andrew Gelman & Noah Kaplan, 2007. "Voting as a Rational Choice," Rationality and Society, , vol. 19(3), pages 293-314, August.
  • Handle: RePEc:sae:ratsoc:v:19:y:2007:i:3:p:293-314
    DOI: 10.1177/1043463107077384
    as

    Download full text from publisher

    File URL: https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/10.1177/1043463107077384
    Download Restriction: no

    File URL: https://libkey.io/10.1177/1043463107077384?utm_source=ideas
    LibKey link: if access is restricted and if your library uses this service, LibKey will redirect you to where you can use your library subscription to access this item
    ---><---

    References listed on IDEAS

    as
    1. Riker, William H. & Ordeshook, Peter C., 1968. "A Theory of the Calculus of Voting," American Political Science Review, Cambridge University Press, vol. 62(1), pages 25-42, March.
    2. Bendor, Jonathan & Diermeier, Daniel & Ting, Michael, 2003. "A Behavioral Model of Turnout," American Political Science Review, Cambridge University Press, vol. 97(2), pages 261-280, May.
    3. Schlozman, Kay Lehman & Verba, Sidney & Brady, Henry E., 1995. "Participation's Not a Paradox: The View from American Activists," British Journal of Political Science, Cambridge University Press, vol. 25(1), pages 1-36, January.
    4. Meehl, Paul E., 1977. "The Selfish Voter Paradox and the Thrown-Away Vote Argument," American Political Science Review, Cambridge University Press, vol. 71(1), pages 11-30, March.
    5. Gelman, Andrew & Katz, Jonathan N. & Bafumi, Joseph, 2004. "Standard Voting Power Indexes Do Not Work: An Empirical Analysis," British Journal of Political Science, Cambridge University Press, vol. 34(4), pages 657-674, October.
    6. Yoram Barzel & Eugene Silberberg, 1973. "Is the act of voting rational?," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 16(1), pages 51-58, September.
    7. Alvarez, R. Michael & Nagler, Jonathan, 2000. "A New Approach for Modelling Strategic Voting in Multiparty Elections," British Journal of Political Science, Cambridge University Press, vol. 30(1), pages 57-75, January.
    8. Anthony Downs, 1957. "An Economic Theory of Political Action in a Democracy," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 65, pages 135-135.
    9. Riker, William H. & Ordeshook, Peter C., 1968. "A Theory of the Calculus of Voting," American Political Science Review, Cambridge University Press, vol. 62(1), pages 25-42, March.
    10. Feddersen, Timothy J & Pesendorfer, Wolfgang, 1996. "The Swing Voter's Curse," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 86(3), pages 408-424, June.
    11. 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.
    12. Ferejohn, John A. & Fiorina, Morris P., 1974. "The Paradox of Not Voting: A Decision Theoretic Analysis," American Political Science Review, Cambridge University Press, vol. 68(2), pages 525-536, June.
    13. John C. Harsanyi, 1955. "Cardinal Welfare, Individualistic Ethics, and Interpersonal Comparisons of Utility," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 63, pages 309-309.
    14. Alan Gerber & Donald Green, 2000. "The effect of a nonpartisan get-out-the-vote drive: An experimental study of leafleting," Natural Field Experiments 00247, The Field Experiments Website.
    15. Tikva Darvish & Jacob Rosenberg, 1988. "The economic model of voter participation: A further test," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 56(2), pages 185-192, February.
    16. Kramer, Gerald H., 1983. "The Ecological Fallacy Revisited: Aggregate- versus Individual-level Findings on Economics and Elections, and Sociotropic Voting," American Political Science Review, Cambridge University Press, vol. 77(1), pages 92-111, March.
    Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)

    Most related items

    These are the items that most often cite the same works as this one and are cited by the same works as this one.
    1. 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.
    2. Edlin, Aaron & Gelman, Andrew & Kaplan, Noah, 2008. "Voting as a Rational Choice," Berkeley Olin Program in Law & Economics, Working Paper Series qt0x3780rb, Berkeley Olin Program in Law & Economics.
    3. Julio Rotemberg, 2009. "Attitude-dependent altruism, turnout and voting," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 140(1), pages 223-244, July.
    4. Thomas Schwartz, 1987. "Your vote counts on account of the way it is counted: An institutional solution to the paradox of not voting," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 54(2), pages 101-121, January.
    5. Thomas Palfrey & Howard Rosenthal, 1983. "A strategic calculus of voting," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 41(1), pages 7-53, January.
    6. Abdul Noury, 2004. "Abstention in Daylight: Strategic Calculus of Voting in the European Parliament," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 121(1), pages 179-211, October.
    7. Lyytikäinen, Teemu & Tukiainen, Janne, 2019. "Are voters rational?," European Journal of Political Economy, Elsevier, vol. 59(C), pages 230-242.
    8. Ming Li & Dipjyoti Majumdar, 2010. "A Psychologically Based Model of Voter Turnout," Journal of Public Economic Theory, Association for Public Economic Theory, vol. 12(5), pages 979-1002, October.
    9. Alastair Smith & Bruce Bueno de Mesquita & Tom LaGatta, 2017. "Group incentives and rational voting1," Journal of Theoretical Politics, , vol. 29(2), pages 299-326, April.
    10. Alessandro Morselli, 2021. "Individual decisions and collective choices in the history of economic thought," Economic Thought journal, Bulgarian Academy of Sciences - Economic Research Institute, issue 3, pages 77-96,97-11.
    11. Serge Blondel & Louis Lévy-garboua, 2011. "Can non-expected utility theories explain the paradox of not voting?," Economics Bulletin, AccessEcon, vol. 31(4), pages 3158-3168.
    12. Dan Usher, 2014. "An alternative explanation of the chance of casting a pivotal vote," Rationality and Society, , vol. 26(1), pages 105-138, February.
    13. Thomas Mustillo, 2016. "Party–voter linkages derived from the calculus of voting model: Electoral mobilization in Ecuador," Rationality and Society, , vol. 28(1), pages 24-51, February.
    14. Frank, Bjorn & Pitlik, Hans & Wirth, Steffen, 2004. "Expert opinion leaders' impact on voter turnout: the case of the Internet Chess Match Kasparov vs. World," European Journal of Political Economy, Elsevier, vol. 20(3), pages 619-635, September.
    15. Stephen Hansen & Thomas Palfrey & Howard Rosenthal, 1987. "The Downsian model of electoral participation: Formal theory and empirical analysis of the constituency size effect," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 52(1), pages 15-33, January.
    16. Castanheira, Micael, 2003. "Victory margins and the paradox of voting," European Journal of Political Economy, Elsevier, vol. 19(4), pages 817-841, November.
    17. Cameron Guage & Feng Fu, 2021. "Asymmetric Partisan Voter Turnout Games," Dynamic Games and Applications, Springer, vol. 11(4), pages 738-758, December.
    18. Sebastian Garmann, 2020. "Political efficacy and the persistence of turnout shocks," Economics and Politics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 32(3), pages 411-429, November.
    19. Sobbrio, Francesco & Navarra, Pietro, 2010. "Electoral participation and communicative voting in Europe," European Journal of Political Economy, Elsevier, vol. 26(2), pages 185-207, June.
    20. Spenkuch, Jörg, 2013. "On the Extent of Strategic Voting," MPRA Paper 50198, University Library of Munich, Germany.

    Corrections

    All material on this site has been provided by the respective publishers and authors. You can help correct errors and omissions. When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:sae:ratsoc:v:19:y:2007:i:3:p:293-314. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: . General contact details of provider: .

    If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

    If CitEc recognized a bibliographic reference but did not link an item in RePEc to it, you can help with this form .

    If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your RePEc Author Service profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: SAGE Publications (email available below). General contact details of provider: .

    Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

    IDEAS is a RePEc service hosted by the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis . RePEc uses bibliographic data supplied by the respective publishers.