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Praxis

Are You Planning to Vote? Yes? No? Take this Survey!

Of the 303 million people living in the United States, half or so are registered to vote. It’s rather impressive to think that a good proportion of the 150 million have been watching the debates, the last of which aired on Monday night. Here are the numbers:

  • Debate #1 (October 3): 67.2 million viewers
  • Debate #2 (October 16): 65.6 million viewers
  • Debate #3 (October 22): 59.2 million viewers

When November 6 rolls around in less that two weeks, if 2008 is any guide, around 130 million Americans will head to the polls. Here is how the numbers broke down in the last four elections. The numbers up the x-axis represent percentages of eligible voters:

The question is why so many Americans will take time out of their day next month to vote when it is so very unlikely that any individual vote will matter to the outcome. It’s a question that rational choice theorists have been asking for decades, and the debate continues.  

At the Economist yesterday, I responded to Katherine Mangu-Ward’s plea to voters that they stay home on election day. Voting, I argued, is not irrational. Your vote can really make a difference, the logic of democracy (seen through a Kantian lens) counsels in favor of showing up at the polls, and symbolic benefits flow from voting even if you neither believe your vote will matter nor consider yourself morally bound to vote.

There is a wide-ranging discussion of my arguments developing at the Economist. Here I am hoping to collect some raw data. The survey is rigorously unscientific. It has two questions, and I invite you to participate by responding in the comments field below. The survey is for eligible voters 18 and over.

1. Do you plan to vote on November 6?
2. If yes: Why? If no: why not?

Feel free to elaborate.  

I’m on Twitter: @stevenmazie

 

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