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People who anticipate others to vote are more inclined to cast their votes, reveals a study.


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What role does a person’s circle of acquaintances play in whether they go out to vote? If people think their friends and family will vote, does that create social pressure for them to vote too? Does the idea that others will know if they voted and the fear that they might not agree have an effect?

Maxime Coulombe, a student in the University of Montreal’s Department of Political Science, is trying to answer these questions as part of his doctoral research on social behavior around elections.

His most recent study was published in the journal Electoral studiesfound that people who expect others to vote are more likely to vote themselves but found no evidence that declining or showing up—thinking others will know if you have voted—has a positive effect on the decision to vote.

Under the supervision of UdeM professors André Blais and Ruth Dassonneville, Colombie surveyed more than 1,000 people during the 2019 Canadian federal election campaign. He asked three questions about the respondent’s partner, his family, friends, and neighbors:

  • Do you think they will vote?
  • If you decide not to vote, how will they view your decision?
  • Do you think they will know if you voted?

Coulomb found that the closer a person is to a respondent (for example, a partner or family member), the more likely they are to have an influence. However, it did not find evidence that expectations of vision and rejection were related to voting decisions.

Collomb then worked with Marshall Foucault, a professor at the Institute of Political Studies in Paris, to replicate his study in France with a poll of more than 10,000 respondents during the 2022 presidential election. This time, preliminary results suggest fear of rejection appears to be a motivator.

“In my review of the literature, I found that only one of two studies came to this conclusion, so further investigation is needed to find out why this difference exists,” Colombe said.

It’s all about perception

Coulomb’s study looks at voting from a social perspective. His data suggests that voting is not entirely an individual decision but is modified by a person’s immediate environment.

He found that descriptive rules (what others do) carry more weight than injunctive rules (what others think we should do). He explained, “We are not affected by the rule per se, but rather by our perception of the rule, which creates social pressure to conform.” “For example, if I believe that only two out of eight members of my family will vote because I think they are apolitical, it may be less likely that I will vote myself. I may indeed be wrong and seven out of eight will vote, but I am the decision guided by my perception – or in this case , Mis-understanding “.

So Coulomb believed that descriptive pressure could be used to encourage people to do their civic duty. He suggested: “We can point to the statistics which show that voting is the norm, and we should avoid saying that few people vote.”

more information:
Maxime Colombe, does it matter if people will know I didn’t vote? the role of social norms and vision, Electoral studies (2023). DOI: 10.1016/j.electstud.2023.102579

Provided by the University of Montreal

the quote: Study finds that people who expect others to vote are more likely to vote for themselves (2023, May 24), Retrieved May 24, 2023 from https://phys.org/news/2023-05-people-vote.html

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