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Voting as a Rational Choice

Author

Listed:
  • Edlin, Aaron
  • Gelman, Andrew
  • Kaplan, Noah

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

  • 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.
  • Handle: RePEc:cdl:oplwec:qt0x3780rb
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Gelman, Andrew & Katz, Jonathan N. & Tuerlinckx, Francis, 2002. "The Mathematics and Statistics of Voting Power," Working Papers 1141, California Institute of Technology, Division of the Humanities and Social Sciences.
    2. 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(01), pages 57-75, January.
    3. repec:cup:apsrev:v:71:y:1977:i:01:p:11-30_25 is not listed on IDEAS
    4. Bendor, Jonathan & Diermeier, Daniel & Ting, Michael M., 2000. "A Behavioral Model of Turnout," Research Papers 1627, Stanford University, Graduate School of Business.
    5. repec:cup:apsrev:v:77:y:1983:i:01:p:92-111_24 is not listed on IDEAS
    6. 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.
    7. 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(04), pages 657-674, October.
    8. 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.
    9. repec:cup:apsrev:v:68:y:1974:i:02:p:525-536_11 is not listed on IDEAS
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