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Informal Social Networks and Rational Voting

Abstract

Classical rational choice explanations of voting participation are widely thought to have failed. This article argues that the currently dominant Group Mobilization and Ethical Agency approaches have serious shortcomings in explaining individually rational turnout. It develops an informal social network (ISN) model in which people rationally vote if their informal networks of family and friends attach enough importance to voting, because voting leads to social approval and vice versa. Using results from the social psychology literature, research on social groups in sociology and their own survey data, the authors argue that the ISN model can explain individually rational non-altruistic turnout. If group variables that affect whether voting is used as a marker of individual standing in groups are included, the likelihood of turnout rises dramatically.

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Geoffrey Brennan and Phillip Pettit , The Economy of Esteem: An Essay on Civil and Political Society (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004)

Robert Huckfeldt and John Sprague , Citizens, Politics, and Social Communication: Information and Influence in an Election Campaign (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1995)

Mark N. Franklin , Voter Turnout and the Dynamics of Electoral Competition in Established Democracies Since 1945 (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2004)

Andrea Campbell , Politics Make Citizens: Senior Political Activism and the American Welfare State (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 2003)

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British Journal of Political Science
  • ISSN: 0007-1234
  • EISSN: 1469-2112
  • URL: /core/journals/british-journal-of-political-science
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