Voting is a personality flaw?


Economists have long argued that citizens are "rationally ignorant" of politics because the payoff to voting is so small compared to the annoyance of actually following political controversies, I mean, ugh, the costs in the voters' time and attention to acquire political information.

Now psychologists at Ohio State University claim to have discovered that people with a high "need to evaluate" are more likely to play politics and to vote. The more likely you are to say to someone that his haircut stinks, the more likely you are to declare that "George Bush is a liar" or "John Kerry is a wimp."

So we may all be rationally ignorant, but at least some of us have strong opinions and are proud of them. See you at the polls!

NEXT: Crackdown on Indymedia

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. Then again, some of us have strong opinions that keep us from the polls …

  2. But isn’t this the very attitude that goads politicians into getting us into war after war?

  3. The way I interpret this is, the people most motivated to get out to the polls are the really judgmental, intolerant ones.

    As a young lad, I used to be a good, conscientious voter. Early on, though, I recused myself from voting on property-tax issues because I didn’t own any taxable property. My current mode is to consider voting an application of force, and I “vote only in self-defense” — that is, only when I feel my rights are in danger. (This usually means voting “no.”)

  4. Make that, “only when I feel my rights are strongly in danger.” I don’t have time to shut down the whole government.

  5. Building on Stevo’s interpretation — if people are inclined to vote for candidates who share their views, then democracies are predisposed to have judgmental, intolerant governments.

    Thus we confirm that it is checks and balances and constitutional protections that (at least temporarily) preserve freedom, and not democracy.

    And it also becomes clear why Libertarianism is doomed as a political movement.

  6. Libertarianism is dead.
    Long live anarchy!

  7. I think the single best way of improving voting would be to have “None of the Above” on the ballot.
    I don’t care so much what would happen if NotA got the majority of the vote, but I think the only way to get more people to vote is to give them the option of “all candidates suck”. That, at least, would differentiate between people who don’t vote because of apathy, and those that don’t vote because of disgust.

  8. CodeMonkeySteve,
    If media were truly impartial, they’d get off the patriotic, civic duty, pack mentality crap and start running stories about how people like I are voting NofA simply by not voting.
    It’s another one of those stories “too hot to print,” eh?

  9. Ruthless — “Simply not voting” is certainly NOT “voting for none of the above”. It’s not voting. In other words it is the opposite of voting.

    CodeMonkeySteve is onto something I think. There is a fundamental flaw with the way our voting system works. It encourages people to play games with their votes. People do not vote for who they think the best candidate is, they vote for the best candidate they think has a chance to win. This situation is the biggest obstacle to third parties in the US.

    I learned most of this from the Free State Project. When they were getting started their website had a very informational article comparing different voting systems. Wish I could find it still.

  10. Randy-

    You might find useful info at

  11. Yes, Randy, there’s a fundamental flaw with our voting system. It’s called democracy. Aristotle had its number.

  12. Silver lining: If only we could convince libertarians to be more judgemental, we could win.

    I mean, “we could beat those pinko statists who want to enslave us all!”

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.