What is the Probability Your Vote Will Make a Difference?

12 Pages Posted: 18 Aug 2009 Last revised: 5 Aug 2010

See all articles by Andrew Gelman

Andrew Gelman

Columbia University - Department of Statistics and Department of Political Science

Nate Silver

affiliation not provided to SSRN

Aaron S. Edlin

University of California at Berkeley; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

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Date Written: August 2009

Abstract

One of the motivations for voting is that one vote can make a difference. In a presidential election, the probability that your vote is decisive is equal to the probability that your state is necessary for an electoral college win, times the probability the vote in your state is tied in that event. We computed these probabilities a week before the 2008 presidential election, using state-by-state election forecasts based on the latest polls. The states where a single vote was most likely to matter are New Mexico, Virginia, New Hampshire, and Colorado, where your vote had an approximate 1 in 10 million chance of determining the national election outcome. On average, a voter in America had a 1 in 60 million chance of being decisive in the presidential election.

Suggested Citation

Gelman, Andrew and Silver, Nate and Edlin, Aaron S., What is the Probability Your Vote Will Make a Difference? (August 2009). NBER Working Paper No. w15220. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1454936

Andrew Gelman

Columbia University - Department of Statistics and Department of Political Science ( email )

New York, NY 10027
United States
212-854-4883 (Phone)
212-663-2454 (Fax)

Nate Silver

affiliation not provided to SSRN ( email )

Aaron S. Edlin (Contact Author)

University of California at Berkeley ( email )

Dept of Economics 549 Evans Hall #3880
Berkeley, CA 94720
United States
510-642-4719 (Phone)
510-643-0413 (Fax)

National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

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Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

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