Theory and Decision

, Volume 22, Issue 3, pp 257-270

First online:

A new theory of voting: Why vote when millions of others do

  • Amihai GlazerAffiliated withDepartment of Economics, University of California

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I believe to have shown that a signalling model of voter behavior is bothconsistent with neo-classical economic theory, and in agreement withmany of the important features of the political system. I cannot provethat the theory is a correct one, only that the assumptions appearreasonable, that these assumptions lead to some testable predictions, andthat many of these predictions agree with the available evidence.

The argument may appear to be discomforting to some; I often findit so. For the view here is that important decisions - war, peace, civil rights- are not made on the basis of considered judgment by the citizens.Instead, citizens realize that their votes will not matter and they there-fore do not vote to affect policy. Voters view politics as a game orentertainment; it is only one of many ways to impress one's friends orassociates, and fulfills the same function for many voters that designerjeans do.