Sunday, April 11, 2010

Looking for an article on voting rationality

I read an article – possibly from an American magazine – a couple of years ago, arguing against the idea that it’s irrational to vote because there’s only a tiny chance that your vote will make the difference between winning and losing. It was saying something vaguely like: you don’t know what number of votes your candidate will need to win nor how many they’ll get other than your own, so you don’t know which individual vote will push them over the winning line, and so it makes sense to stockpile as many as possible, including yours. Only more coherent and substantial than that.

I remember thinking it was interesting but not whether I was convinced. I’ve tried Googling some likely terms but with no luck. Does anyone know what this article was?


Matt M said...

Can't help with the article, I'm afraid. But if you do find it could you mention it on the blog - as it does sound interesting.

While I do intend to vote in the upcoming GE, I doubt it'll make any difference. Whoever wins will win regardless of my actions.

Even if I got more involved in campaigning and managed to get an MP I agree with elected it wouldn't make much difference in the end - as one MP in the House of Commons won't have much influence.

I think the most rational thing to do might be to ignore the general election and instead put my energy into finding and supporting a decent group campaigning for wide-ranging reform.

American MC said...

Good to get the casual anti-Americanism out of the way at the start! However, I'm unclear whether the slight is in reference to a perception that American voter turnout is low or whether it's related to the reputed inability of Americans to put together sensible arguments. If it's the former, then I remind you of the c. 62% turnout in the last US presidential election (broadly equivalent to the 61.4% voter turnout in the UK's 2005 general election). If it's the latter, then, well, I think my nationality prevents me from being able to argue against you!

Interestingly, the Beeb's Scotland correspondent recently posted an article entitled "Is not voting a rational choice?" ( Interestingly, the bulk of the argument seems to centre around an ill- or under-educated electorate. How delightfully British!

American MC said...

Could this be the article?:

Of course, I recognise that I've now undermined the above defense of my compatriots...

Tom Freeman said...

Hi, thanks for the tip - it wasn't that article but I'll read it anyway.

You've completely got the wrong end of the stick with my opening line. The aside was just a statement of all I could remember about where I found the article, on the offchance that that might help jog anyone's memory. But I don't think what it was saying was particularly US-specific. No slight intended!