[Election-Methods] Do strategic voters stay home on election day?

Juho Laatu juho.laatu at gmail.com
Thu Jan 10 10:05:46 PST 2008

The odds are not very good for any voter. In large elections with  
good probability any single voter could as well stay at home and the  
results would not change.

I think voters tend to be optimistic in the sense that they trust  
that also others see the world the same way they do. Many at least  
hope that their own party will get  lots of votes and they are  
prepared to work to make that happen. Voting oneself is one way of  
contributing to this joint process.

This kind of "optimistic" thinking is one reason why people vote even  
if they understand that their vote may have only a very small impact  
if any. Strategists might be optimistic in this sense since they are  
at least ready to do some thinking and plan how they could influence  
the outcome in all possible ways. But also the opposite scenario is  
possible, strategic voters not having good enough possibilities to  
influence and therefore not voting at all.

Optimism may also reduce strategic voting. A voters that fears that  
his favourite will lose the election may be more likely to resort to  
strategic voting. I believe this also makes often sense. Taking a  
positive attitude and promoting fair game may often be the best  
strategic option available. I think in many elections the opinions do  
change quite a lot even during the last days.

US presidential elections are one interesting example. Some voters  
vote for others than the two major candidates. They may be sincere  
and not know that their vote is (in a way) lost. They could vote this  
way since they simply want to vote sincerely. They can also be  
strategic (or anti-strategic) in the sense that they want to send  
some message to the society this way (e.g. that the election method  
is no good, or in the hope that that candidate/party would become  
more popular in the future). This strategic voting is however  
different than what we normally consider strategic voting  
(=~intention to manipulate the outcome).

Maybe one could say that these US voters demonstrate/prove that at  
least some groups "non-strategic" voters will vote even though their  
votes will be lost quite certainly.


On Jan 10, 2008, at 16:52 , Steve Eppley wrote:

> Hi,
> In elections where strategically-minded potential voters believe the
> odds are extremely low that their vote will be pivotal, do most of  
> them
> conclude their best strategy is to not spend any time voting or even
> thinking about how to vote?
> (In Australia voters are fined if they don't vote.  So, let's neglect
> Australia for this discussion.)
> ----
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