Voter Motivation

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Voters have many motivations. Some vote on the issues. They vote for a candidate because they share that candidate's policy positions. Some vote on performance. They vote for a candidate because they think that candidate will produce the best outcomes in office. Some vote on group identities. They vote for a candidate because that candidate is connected to their social group. This paper is about these motivations. I address three questions. First, which of these motivations, were it widespread, would be best for intrinsic democratic values? Second, how do the motivations of actual American voters affect the value of American democracy? Third, what motivations should individual American voters have? I argue that widespread issue voting would be best, followed by performance voting, followed by group voting. I argue that American voters do not much contribute to the value of American democracy. Their behavior makes it hard to achieve many democratic values. Finally, I argue that, were America an ideal democracy, American voters would have reason to vote on the issues. But, in their non-ideal democracy, American voters merely have reason to avoid voting on privileged group identities.
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Archival date: 2021-04-19
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