Monday, November 03, 2008

Endure your costly civic duty

I'm constantly amazed by stories like this.

Waiting six hours in line to vote? I mean...really? Anthony Downs would be perplexed. The only explanation I can give is that people have ingrained within them a strong sense of civic duty, and they're convinced that they can't sleep at night unless they cast their ballot. And I guess that's the amazing result-- that preferences so violently inconsistent with individual well-being can persist, trial after trial. Altruism may be individually irrational but not terribly so; psychic benefit could conceivably explain the decision time after time. Yet voting is consistently a very costly activity-- sometimes really costly, as outlined in the article-- and people continue to do so. Can you attribute the activity solely to psychic benefit? Why aren't people updating their preferences election after election in terms of their vote being the swaying vote? Is civic duty, ingrained from elementary school day #1, that strong?

Bizarre.

3 comments:

Dana said...

The real question is why more people don't do absentee ballots? In most places it takes no time to opt for and I know in Cali you can become a permanent absentee voter.

Matt E. Ryan said...

Though I would argue that the most costly part of being a voter is becoming informed; assumed along with the model is that people don't cast arbitrary votes, i.e., any vote cast is a well informed expression of the voter's preferences.

Justin M Ross said...

If this were a signaling game combined with the theory of expressive voting, then the long lines would be a benefit to the would-be voters.