Economic Woman

Econometrics, gender, equity and more.

Why do we vote strategically?

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This is related to another question, namely, why anyone votes at all. The chance that your vote will alter the outcome of an election is extremely small, which makes the marginal benefit of that trip to the polls effectively zero. This piece suggests that if you care about social good in general, your payoff is very high in the unlikely event that your vote is pivotal. I think this argument is complicated by the relative similarity of front-running candidates, among other things. As far as I can tell, I vote for some sort of emotional and social return.

Strategic votes express a preference for some second- or third-best candidate. They are, on some level, an attempt to increase the marginal impact of a vote. But their effect is still very close to zero, and in my experience, voting strategically doesn’t bring anyone much joy. And yet we continue to do it. In fact, in the aggregate, strategic voters can be pivotal. In Toronto’s despair-inducing mayoral campaign, every other candidate is scrambling to collect votes from the otherwise disenchanted anyone-but-Rob-Ford contingent.

A few years ago, I vowed that I would never cast another strategic vote. This has made voting more fun, but in some ways it’s similar to Gordon Tullock’s decision not to vote at all. (That’s a reference to the first  link.)

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Written by Allison

4 October 2010 at 10:32 am

Posted in Uncategorized

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