Tag Archives: Hypocrisy

My Voting Hypocrisy


Robin Hanson often writes that politics is about identity, not policy.

Why do people vote?

To affiliate with others like them. People want to be part of a tribe. Preferably one that has high status.

People do not vote because they’ve reasoned through the thick waters of policy and have found a politician that aligns with their policy vision.

Often when I read Robin – on this issue as well as others – I nod my head and say: “Yes, that’s true for the masses but not for me.”

This is most often a foolish sentiment.

For the past decade, I’ve almost always voted in federal elections, especially in presidential elections. For most of my adult life I have lived in Louisiana (a deeply red state) and voted for Democratic candidates in presidential races. In short, I knew at the outset that my vote was worthless (in terms of affecting the outcome) but I voted anyway. Why? I wanted to feel like I was the kind of person who voted for the “right person.”

I was seeking an emotion, not a political outcome.

Yet, when it came to local elections, I voted less often. During a recent election cycle, I didn’t even vote in the school board race, despite the fact that I was working (many hours a week) in education.

So, in elections where statistically I had the most chance in affecting the outcome – and where I had the most knowledge on the policy issues at hand – I voted less frequently than I did for federal elections, elections where my vote had no chance of having an impact, and where I had little expertise in the major policy issues of the office.

What do I take away from this?

My ability to rationalize my own behavior is immense; it is incredibly difficult to consistently align my actions around a professed set of beliefs; my objectiveness is constantly under attack from my desire to belong.

You are probably no different.