In the Privacy of the Voting Booth

By Scribe8372

Nov 6, 2006 6:52am

I’m sure that by now you’re ready to kill someone the next time you’re told it’s your duty as a citizen to vote.  Tuesday’s the day.  My lips are sealed. 

Two bits of psychological research on why we vote, and why we make certain decisions.  One comes from Jon Krosnick, a professor at Stanford, writing in Saturday’s NY Times. 

He argues that a fair number of people, once they’re in the booth, feel compelled to cast a vote in every race…even if they don’t feel strongly about the candidates or the issues.  Given no other basis on which to make a choice, they vote for the first candidate listed. 

In 1996, he points out, Bill Clinton did four percent better in precincts where he was listed first than when he was listed last; in 2000, George W. Bush did nine percent better when listed first. 

It’s enough, he says, to make the difference in tight races–and who’s listed first is not consistent from state to state.  More HERE.

The other item has to do with why we vote at all, given the sad reality that when millions of people vote, your vote really doesn’t count very much.  For intelligence on this, it’s worth a look at something by Steve Levitt and Stephen Dubner, the authors of "Freakonomics," with whom we’ve collaborated on World News pieces in the past.

Why do people go to the polls?  Dubner and Levitt cite some research from Switzerland, showing that when people were offered the convenience of voting by mail, turnout actually decreased. 

What happened?  Perhaps, they suggest, people didn’t just vote out of civic duty; they voted because they wanted to be seen by their neighbors doing it.  More HERE.

Tuesday’s the day. 

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