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Steve Malcolm
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Quite simply, I or you or any voter represents a demographic which is a group of people with similar preferences. My demographic votes in a certain way. The question is not so much whether my vote will make a difference, but rather whether my demographic votes. If my demographic becomes "too rational to vote because we understand that each of our individual votes is unlikely to affect the outcome", then my demographic is muted. I currently live in Quebec and am a native English speaker. Here who is elected changes basic things in my life (such as whether speaking English at work becomes illegal). I voted strategically in the last election (i.e. not for my first preference). Why? Because the vote is secret, so I have to guess at what other people in my demographic will do to beat down the "bad outcome", and given our vote is split, we need to intuit how to coalesce around someone who is likely to win my seat. We also look at how large segments outside our demographic is likely to vote in casting ours. Is my vote alone likely to swing it? No. But it is the sum of votes exactly like mine that will. If we were 7 people trying to decide where to go for dinner tonight, and another person and I want an Italian restaurant in Little Italy, 2 want an Italian restaurant next door, and 3 want Kentucky Fried Chicken, we would look at how each other are voting and I and the other person might decide to compromise on which Italian restaurant to ensure we at least get something palatable. Open vote. But in a secret vote such as an election, you can see how a sub-optimal outcome can occur if similar demographics don't vote together, and if I am typical of "my demographic" and you figure all the other people with identical preferences are doing the same mental calculations as you, the vote of "my demographic" changes by looking at the opinion polls as we vote for our second preference. This game is in fact completely rational. Voting is rational.
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Nov 19, 2012