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What is the probability your vote will make a difference?

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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.

Suggested Citation

  • 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.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:15220
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    1. 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.
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    5. 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.
    6. Aaron Edlin & Andrew Gelman & Noah Kaplan, 2007. "Voting as a Rational Choice," Rationality and Society, , vol. 19(3), pages 293-314, August.
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    Cited by:

    1. Jared Barton & Marco Castillo & Ragan Petrie, 2014. "What Persuades Voters? A Field Experiment on Political Campaigning," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 124(574), pages 293-326, February.
    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. Brad R. Taylor, 2016. "Exit and the Epistemic Quality of Voice," Economic Affairs, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 36(2), pages 133-144, June.
    4. Brad R. Taylor, 2020. "The psychological foundations of rational ignorance: biased heuristics and decision costs," Constitutional Political Economy, Springer, vol. 31(1), pages 70-88, March.
    5. Robert S. Goldfarb & Lee Sigelman, 2010. "Does ‘Civic Duty’ ‘Solve’ The Rational Choice Voter Turnout Puzzle?," Journal of Theoretical Politics, , vol. 22(3), pages 275-300, July.
    6. Shayo, Moses & Harel, Alon, 2012. "Non-consequentialist voting," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 81(1), pages 299-313.
    7. Nicholas Janetos, 2017. "Voting as a signal of education," PIER Working Paper Archive 17-010, Penn Institute for Economic Research, Department of Economics, University of Pennsylvania, revised 01 May 2017.
    8. Daniel J. Smith, 2020. "Turn-taking in office," Constitutional Political Economy, Springer, vol. 31(2), pages 205-226, June.

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    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • H0 - Public Economics - - General
    • K0 - Law and Economics - - General

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