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.