• Voter turnout;
  • Cognitive psychology;
  • Efficacy;
  • Elite-mass interactions

This study applies social cognitive theory to the study of voter turnout, examining the effects of self-efficacy on citizens' decisions of whether or not to vote. Consistent with recent arguments in cognitive psychology (Fenton-O'Creevy, Nicholson, Soane, & Willman, 2003, 2005), I argue that excessive perceptions of self-efficacy lead some citizens to overestimate their vote's impact in close elections and to vote as a consequence of these perceptions. This illusion of control is further engendered by the features of skill-based activities such as choice, personal involvement, stimulus familiarity, and exertion of effort (Langer, 1975) that are inherent in the act of voting. Employing both cross-sectional and panel data, I find that individuals with high levels of self-efficacy are more likely to be moved to vote by perceptions that an election will be close than are citizens with low levels of self-efficacy.