Political Behavior

, Volume 28, Issue 2, pp 113–128 | Cite as

Patience as a Political Virtue: Delayed Gratification and Turnout

  • James H. FowlerEmail author
  • Cindy D. Kam


A number of scholars have demonstrated that voter turnout is influenced by the costs of processing information and going to the polls, and the policy benefits associated with the outcome of the election. However, no one has yet noted that the costs of voting are paid on or before Election Day, while policy benefits may not materialize until several days, months, or even years later. Since the costs of voting must be borne before the benefits are realized, people who are more patient should be more willing to vote. We use a “choice game” from experimental economics to estimate individual discount factors which are used to measure patience. We then show that patience significantly increases voter turnout.


Voter turnout Discount factor Patience Delayed gratification 



We would like to thank Robert Huckfeldt, Brian Sala, Liz Zechmeister, and members of the Micro Politics Group in the Department of Political Science at the University of California, Davis for helpful comments.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, Inc. 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Political ScienceUniversity of CaliforniaDavisUSA

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