Voting, Rationality and Reputation

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Abstract

Why do people vote? This paper presents a solution to the voting paradox in rational choice theory, based on the interaction between two concepts: externalities (James Coleman) and reputation (Einar Overbye). Elaborating on the idea that voting is an investment in one's reputation, I will argue that there are two concepts of reputation: reputation-of-power and reputation-of-trust. The solution to the voting paradox can be found in the reputation-game between social actors holding these two different forms of reputation. During an electoral campaign, powerful opinion leaders can employ their reputation-of-power (power to impose sanctions) in order to get mere voters to vote in a certain way. The aim of the powerful opinion leaders is not to influence the outcome of the election but simply to acquire or maintain their reputation, while mere voters have an interest to vote as told in order to appear trustworthy (reputation-of-trust) to powerful opinion leaders. The act of voting is an unintended consequence of this power game.

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