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What is the probability your vote will make a difference?

Author

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
    Note: LE PE
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    File URL: http://www.nber.org/papers/w15220.pdf
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Mulligan, Casey B & Hunter, Charles G, 2003. "The Empirical Frequency of a Pivotal Vote," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 116(1-2), pages 31-54, July.
    2. 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.
    3. Douglas Hibbs, 2008. "Implications of the ‘bread and peace’ model for the 2008 US presidential election," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 137(1), pages 1-10, October.
    4. 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.
    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.
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    Cited by:

    1. 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.
    2. Brad R. Taylor, 2016. "Exit and the Epistemic Quality of Voice," Economic Affairs, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 36(2), pages 133-144, June.
    3. Shayo, Moses & Harel, Alon, 2012. "Non-consequentialist voting," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 81(1), pages 299-313.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

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

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