To Vote or Not to Vote?: The Merits and Limits of Rational Choice Theory

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What makes people vote? In addressing this simple question, Andre Blais examines the factors that increase or decrease turnout at the aggregate, cross-national level and considers what affects people's decision to vote or abstain. In doing so, Blais assesses the merits and limitations of the rational choice model in explaining voter behaviour. The past few decades have witnessed a rise in the popularity of the rational choice model in accounting for voter turnout, and more recently a groundswell of outspoken opposition to rational choice theory. Blais brings together the opposing theories and literatures, and offers tests of these different viewpoints. Using new data sets from many countries, Blais concludes that while rational choice is an important tool - even when it doesn't work - its empirical contribution to understanding why people vote is quite limited.