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The paradox of not voting: A decision theoretic analysis

Ferejohn, John A. and Fiorina, Morris P. (1974) The paradox of not voting: A decision theoretic analysis. American Political Science Review, 68 (2). pp. 525-536. ISSN 0003-0554. doi:10.1017/S0003055400117368.

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Various analysts have noted that the decision to vote in mass elections is difficult to justify from the standpoint of an expected utility maximization model. Put simply, the probability that a citizen's vote will affect the outcome is so small that the expected gains from voting are outweighed by the costs in time and effort. Such analyses treat rational behavior as synonymous with expected utility maximization. In this paper we show that an alternative criterion for decision making under uncertainty, minimax regret, specifies voting under quite general conditions. Both two and three candidate plurality elections are considered. Interestingly, a minimax regret decision maker never votes for his second choice in a three candidate election, whereas expected utility maximizers clearly may. Thus, the model proposed has implications for candidate choice as well as turnout.

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Additional Information:© American Political Science Association 1974. We should like to acknowledge the encouragement of Charles Plott, the critical acumen of John Benton, James Quirk, Kenneth Shepsle, Peter Aranson, Peter Ordeshook, and Duff Spafford, and, finally, the prescience of David Seidman. Originally issued as Social Science Working Paper 19.
Group:Social Science Working Papers
Subject Keywords:Voting, Regret, Political candidates, Minimax, Expected utility, Rational choice theory, Utilities costs, Citizenship, Voting behavior
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Social Science Working Paper19
Issue or Number:2
Record Number:CaltechAUTHORS:20171207-140912229
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Usage Policy:No commercial reproduction, distribution, display or performance rights in this work are provided.
ID Code:83735
Deposited By: Jacquelyn Bussone
Deposited On:22 Dec 2017 00:12
Last Modified:15 Nov 2021 20:13

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