Voting paradox

by Russ Roberts on January 3, 2008

in Politics

If you live in New Hampshire, why should the failure of your favorite candidate for President to meet expectations in Iowa change your vote? The pundits says, for example, that if Hillary comes in third in Iowa, she is in for a long, cold winter (HT: Drudge). Bill Clinton is already trying to lower expectations (HT: Drudge) for his wife. I know this is how the game is played, but why? Why should you change your vote if your favorite candidate looks to be falling behind? Why should the preferences of Iowans change your preferences?

The standard answer is that if you vote for a candidate who now appears to have a dramatically lower chance of winning, you might be wasting your vote.

But your vote isn’t likely to matter anyway, in the sense of breaking a tie. Why is it wasting your vote to vote for a candidate who has a diminished or minimal chance of winning? You get no credit for voting for the winner. It’s not a bet. Doesn’t the morality of democracy demand that you vote for the candidate closest to your views regardless of the probability of victory?


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