Posted: 5 Mar 2001
Turnout at elections cannot be easily explained by reference to instrumental rationality. The probability that any individual voter will alter an electoral outcome is miniscule and the net expected utility from voting is likely to be negative. Instead, high rates of turnout are explained by the consumption gains arising from the act of voting. This paper distinguishes between utility derived from fulfilling a civic duty and utility derived from expressing a political preference. Both considerations affect turnout but a test of the determinants of the decision of whether to vote and the decision of how to vote reveals that perceptions of the importance of civic duty are important when deciding whether to vote. Differences in preference for the political parties, differences in perceptions of policy certainty and differences in the integrity attributed to representatives of political parties are important when explaining how individuals vote. The implication is that intrinsic motivation is important when individuals consider whether or not to vote and the utility from expressive voting is more relevant when explaining how individuals vote. It follows that it is possible to explain high turnout rates even when there are periods of "consensus politics". Moreover, policy designed to maintain standards in public life should be framed to "crowd in" intrinsive motivation.
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation
Jones, Philip and Hudson, John, Civic Duty and Expressive Voting: Is Virtue its own Reward?. Kyklos, Vol. 53, No. 1, Pp. 3-16, 2000 . Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=242498