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Voting as a Rational Choice: Why and How People Vote to Improve the Well-Being of Others

Author

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  • Aaron Edlin
  • Andrew Gelman
  • Noah Kaplan

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: Why and How People Vote to Improve the Well-Being of Others," NBER Working Papers 13562, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:13562 Note: LE POL
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    13. 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.
    14. Yoram Barzel & Eugene Silberberg, 1973. "Is the act of voting rational?," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 16(1), pages 51-58, September.
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    Citations

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    Cited by:

    1. Marco Faravelli & Randall Walsh, 2011. "Smooth Politicians And Paternalistic Voters: A Theory Of Large Elections," Levine's Working Paper Archive 786969000000000250, David K. Levine.
    2. Dan Usher, 2017. "Utilitarianism, Voting and the Redistribution of Income," Working Papers 1385, Queen's University, Department of Economics.
    3. Roland Iwan Luttens & Marie-Anne Valfort, 2012. "Voting for Redistribution under Desert-Sensitive Altruism," Scandinavian Journal of Economics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 114(3), pages 881-907, September.
    4. repec:aea:aejmic:v:9:y:2017:i:4:p:108-40 is not listed on IDEAS
    5. Emir Kamenica & Louisa Egan Brad, 2014. "Voters, dictators, and peons: expressive voting and pivotality," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 159(1), pages 159-176, April.
    6. Evren, Özgür, 2012. "Altruism and voting: A large-turnout result that does not rely on civic duty or cooperative behavior," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 147(6), pages 2124-2157.
    7. Jorge Andrés Gallego, 2007. "La reciprocidad y la paradoja del votante," Revista de Economía Institucional, Universidad Externado de Colombia - Facultad de Economía, vol. 9(16), pages 149-188, January-J.
    8. Pedro Robalo & Arthur Schram & Joep Sonnemans, 2013. "Other-regarding Preferences, Group Identity and Political Participation: An Experiment," Tinbergen Institute Discussion Papers 13-079/I, Tinbergen Institute.
    9. Gintis, Herbert, 2016. "Homo Ludens: Social rationality and political behavior," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 126(PB), pages 95-109.
    10. Joseph McMurray, 2008. "Information and Voting: the Wisdom of the Experts versus the Wisdom of the Masses," Wallis Working Papers WP59, University of Rochester - Wallis Institute of Political Economy.
    11. Lyytikäinen, Teemu & Tukiainen, Janne, 2013. "Are Voters Rational?," Working Papers 50, Government Institute for Economic Research Finland (VATT).
    12. Joan Esteban & Debraj Ray, 2011. "Linking Conflict to Inequality and Polarization," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 101(4), pages 1345-1374, June.
    13. Ozgur Evren, 2009. "Altruism, Turnout and Strategic Voting Behavior," Levine's Working Paper Archive 814577000000000309, David K. Levine.
    14. Morton, Rebecca B. & Ou, Kai, 2015. "What motivates bandwagon voting behavior: Altruism or a desire to win?," European Journal of Political Economy, Elsevier, vol. 40(PB), pages 224-241.
    15. Avi Ben-Bassat & Momi Dahan, 2012. "Social identity and voting behavior," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 151(1), pages 193-214, April.
    16. Ján Palguta, 2011. "Voting Experiments: Measuring Vulnerability of Voting Procedures to Manipulation," Czech Economic Review, Charles University Prague, Faculty of Social Sciences, Institute of Economic Studies, vol. 5(3), pages 324-345, November.
    17. Mwangi S. Kimenyi & Roxana Gutierrez Romero, 2008. "Identity, Grievances, and Economic Determinants of Voting in the 2007 Kenyan Elections," Working papers 2008-38, University of Connecticut, Department of Economics.
    18. Andrew Gelman & Nate Silver & Aaron Edlin, 2009. "What is the probability your vote will make a difference?," NBER Working Papers 15220, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    19. Dan Usher, 2011. "An Alternative Explanation of the Chance of Casting a Pivotal Vote," Working Papers 1238, Queen's University, Department of Economics.
    20. repec:eee:joepsy:v:62:y:2017:i:c:p:130-154 is not listed on IDEAS
    21. Brad Taylor, 2015. "Strategic and expressive voting," Constitutional Political Economy, Springer, vol. 26(2), pages 159-170, June.
    22. Lionel Page & Paul Antoine-Chevalier, 2016. "Zoon politikon or homo oeconomicus ? How do people vote?," QuBE Working Papers 037, QUT Business School.
    23. Mihai UNGUREANU & Andra ROESCU, 2015. "Economic models of voting: an empirical study on the electoral behavior in Romanian 2012 parliamentary elections," Theoretical and Applied Economics, Asociatia Generala a Economistilor din Romania - AGER, vol. 0(3(604), A), pages 63-74, Autumn.
    24. repec:agr:journl:v:3(604):y:2015:i:3(604):p:63-74 is not listed on IDEAS
    25. Adam Pigoń, 2013. "What Affects Voter Turnout? Macro and Micro Evidence from Poland," Collegium of Economic Analysis Annals, Warsaw School of Economics, Collegium of Economic Analysis, issue 32, pages 77-105.

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    JEL classification:

    • H0 - Public Economics - - General
    • K21 - Law and Economics - - Regulation and Business Law - - - Antitrust Law

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