Should I be bothered?

Over the last week we have been bombarded with the Union election campaigns. We all react differently to these campaigns: some vote for their preferred candidate, while some abstain from voting, others vote randomly or make their votes uniformed. This phenomenon is not unique to Warwick but faced by all democratic institutions, so what is it about the human mind that makes us vote?

#### Why Vote

Most people recognise that any one vote cannot make a significant change to the outcome of an election, indeed a perfectly rational person could conclude that voting is pointless. If you consider yourself a rational voter then think of it this way. ‘If you knew how everybody else was going to vote, it would be clear that your single vote would not change the final outcome, thus as you can’t change the outcome, you don’t need to vote’. Taken to its logical extreme nobody should vote, this is clearly flawed logic but raises an important point, the majority of people don’t affect the outcome of an election.

{{ quote Taken to its logical extreme, nobody should vote }}

Yet every year many people do vote because people actually vote for more reasons than just the final outcome of the election. Some vote because they want to show support of a candidate even if they do not win, while others vote to endorse the democratic system or because they believe it is their social responsibility. All of these voters are not covered by our initial rational voting logic, in other words they are non-tactical voters.

People also choose not to vote for more than one reason; the most obvious is that they have concluded that it does not matter. After all how much difference does one union president make over another, and once you get a new president do they make any difference from doing nothing, (what happened to the new email system Tommo promised?) Other factors include voter fatigue, when voters are asked to vote multiple times a year turnout can half as people become tired. The worst case is when voters do not feel represented and decided that they want none of the candidates. For example, this may pose a problem to Warwick’s Science Faculty as nobody has run for the Undergraduate Science Faculty Representative this year.

#### Convincing us to vote

Those running for positions of power have a vested interest in you voting. You may have noticed many of the candidates saying ‘it doesn’t matter who you vote for, but please vote’ or a similar statement. The main reason for this is that overcoming voter apathy and getting you to vote is the greatest challenge. For example in this years presidential elections if they can get you to vote the candidates had a one in five (20%) chance that you would vote for them. This may seem like a disadvantage because there is and 80% chance that you won’t vote for them, but as there is an 85% chance you won’t vote at all they have improved their odds by 670%. Also they don’t even need a majority of the vote to win the election but just more than anybody else. It is quite possible to win an election by only convincing a small proportion of people to vote for you; if we assume that the candidates are equally capable, and would in a perfect world get 20% of the vote each, they then would only need a tiny fraction more people to tip the balance. In reality the majority do not vote for the leader, the minority do.

As it is usually a minority of people who decide elections, a prudent candidate will target a significant minority with a policy that will easily swing their vote, for example Andrew Bradley’s pledge to make sure “campaigning should never be a dirty word for a Student Union” strikes a strong cord with those in Warwick involved with political movements and those who took an interest in recent sit-in in S021.

Candidates also look to make a good impression; it is a well established fact that people make assumptions about people in the first few moments of meeting people. This year Mitchell Fung has clearly demonstrated how a strong and confident presentation can swing voters with his clear message “Optimize, Internationalise, Harmonise”

Although there is no formula to election success, balancing these key social and physiological factors can make a real difference to the outcome of the elections.

#### Is voting a good thing?

It is often assumed that high voter turnout is an indication of a good election, however this relies on the assumption that everybody should vote. It is important to make a distinction between somebody’s right to vote and whether they should vote. The matter of whether somebody should vote is to do with how informed that person is. Take for example a Warwick student who has no interest in the election, has not attended any of the debates and not read the manifestos of any of the candidates. Should that student vote? Obviously they have the right to but as they are completely uninformed how can they make a meaningful choice? The ideal voter is somebody who is well informed on the issues, knows the differences between the candidates and has a clear intention to select somebody who represents their views. Unfortunately these people tend not to represent the majority of people as they are often at the extremes instead. These people are also the most likely to vote as they take the opportunity to further their political aims. Thus we can see that nobody is an ideal voter. No wonder Churchill said that democracy was the worst system of government.


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