How to Vote Well

To vote well, we need more than just information. We also need to process information in an open-minded and reliable way. Unfortunately, research shows that individuals aren’t very good at doing that. Professor Jason Brennan outlines four important biases citizens need to overcome in order to vote well: optimism bias, confirmation bias, in-group bias, and action bias. These biases come naturally to most people. How can we prevent them from affecting our votes?

Professor Brennan makes several suggestions to help us become better voters:

  1. Don’t label yourself. Stay independent.
  2. Listen to the other side and challenge your own views. Take a break from reading things that support your current opinions.
  3. Stop and think. Step back and carefully analyze options before making an opinion.
  4. Avoid the news and focus on the social sciences. To be a good voter, invest in learning the basics of economics, sociology, and political science.
  5. Assume things will go worse than expected. Double the expected costs and halve the benefits; if a program doesn’t seem worth it after that, don’t vote for it.

Voting irresponsibly doesn’t help anyone. We’re all capable of voting well, Professor Brennan says—if we’re willing to do a little work.

8 Comments

  1. Chocolate Thunder

    I wonder what Brennan would say about the idea of rational ignorance in regards to voting, as in it is rational to be ignorant about one’s voting because one is unlikely to alter election outcomes anyway.

    I also wonder if those who are proponents of the idea of rational ignorance would alter their analysis when it comes to local elections, where one has a greater potential at influencing politics.

  2. Ryan Boyd

    I must admit, I do harbor many of the biases in the video. Are these necessarily natural or are they learned behaviors though?

  3. Joshua Chandler

    I experienced what a difference it makes not to label yourself a few
    months ago myself. Originally I stopped trying to label myself because I
    was too often bouncing between different labels, because I saw some
    merit in all of them. But after I stopped trying to label myself I found
    it even easier to see the flaws in whatever it was that I was starting
    to become most sympathetic to at the time, and to see the positive
    points in those who opposed it.

  4. thomas6698

    This still won’t make my vote count considering how most people take minuscule time to invest in politics, but I suppose that could change anytime in the mere future.

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