, Volume 32, Issue 3, pp 331-336
Date: 16 May 2010

Introduction to Social Pressure and Voting: New Experimental Evidence

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For decades, political scientists have puzzled over problems of collective action that arise when large numbers of people are asked to contribute to a public good. When any one person’s contribution to the collective cause is negligible and the outcome can be enjoyed even by people who do not contribute, collective action fizzles because no individual has an incentive to sacrifice for a collective cause. This grim analytic framework is often applied to voting, where individuals are asked to expend time and effort, yet have little chance of casting a pivotal vote (Downs 1957).

The fact that large numbers of people do in fact vote has led scholars to theorize about the “selective incentives” (Olson 1965) that induce people to participate in elections. One hypothesis is that people derive intrinsic satisfaction from casting their ballots. They either enjoy the act of voting per se or feel good about themselves for advancing a partisan cause or honoring a civic obligation. A second hypothes ...