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Your Vote May Not Affect the Election, But It May Affect Your Self Esteem

 

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For Most Americans, Voting for President Is an Emotional Act, Not a Rational One

Unless you plan to run for public office in the future, the decision to go through the effort of voting is likely an emotional decision, not a rational one. This is not a popular thing to mention, but unless you are in a swing state, the chance your vote will affect the final outcome of the presidential election is close to zero. In fact, many of us are more likely to win the lottery (assuming we purchase a ticket) than we are to change the outcome of the presidential election with our single vote. Even in swing states, where individual votes do have more impact, any one person’s individual vote is not very likely to alter who ends up being our next president.

So Are There Good Reasons to Vote for President This Year? Yes!

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If those of us who don’t live in swing states know our vote has almost no chance of affecting the final outcome of this election, why do we vote? Civic duty is a huge part of it! We want to feel that we did our part. There is a sense that the right to vote is precious or even sacred, and should not be squandered. We also vote out of respect for the great people who have fought throughout our nation’s history for the right of all American citizens to be able to vote. Voting helps us feel connected to our community as well. Perhaps because of all these factors, voting is likely to improve our self-concept and thus increases our emotional well-being. We want to be good citizens who do our part and act as role models for younger generations. We don’t want to experience the type of self-concept distress we might experience if failing to vote causes us to see ourselves as uncaring, uninvolved or too lazy to vote.

If those of us who don’t live in swing states know our vote won’t affect the final outcome of this election, why do we vote? Civic duty is a huge part of it! We want to feel that we did our part. There is a sense that the right to vote is precious or even sacred, and should not be squandered. We also vote out of respect for the great people who have fought throughout our nation’s history for the right of all American citizens to be able to vote. Voting helps us feel connected to our community as well. Perhaps because of all these factors, voting is likely to improve our self-concept and thus increases our emotional well-being. We want to be good citizens who do our part and act as role models for younger generations. We don’t want to experience the type of self-concept distress we might experience if failing to vote causes us to see ourselves as uncaring, uninvolved or too lazy to make the effort.

Voting Is Good for Your Personal Well-Being and Our Democracy.

For many Americans, whether they realize it or not, voting is more of a meaningful symbolic gesture rather than an act we expect will in itself determine who gets to live in the White House. Describing voting as irrational commonly yields highly emotional responses. Similarly, the mere statement that most votes have no chance of affecting the final outcome often upsets people. So let me be clear: I am all for voting! It is important for our collective democracy as well as for our own sense of who we are as individual Americans. Voting makes people feel connected and involved. It is a good thing!

It is also worth noting that even if each individual votes are just small drops in an enormous bucket, with no drops, we would end up with an empty bucket! In short, voting is a good thing, even when it is irrational. Bob Schieffer, the moderator of the final presidential debate, said it well in his very final closing comments, where he quoted his mother as saying, “Go vote! It makes you feel big and strong!” Obama and Romney seemed to agree that this was great advice. (See the closing comments of the final presidential debate here.)

Related Posts on the Psychology of the 2012 Presidential Election:

Which Emotions Have the Most Influence on Voters?

Which Debate Will Have the Greatest Effect on Voters?

Voting Against Economic Self Interest: Why Romney Shouldn’t Have Given Up On That 47%

 

 

 

 

 

Michal Ann Strahilevitz, Ph.D., is a professor of marketing at Golden Gate University.

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