lecture15 - UCLA PS 40 Department of Political Science...

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1 UCLA Department of Political Science Fall 2007 PS 40 Introduction to American Politics Prof. Thomas Schwartz HUNK 15 POLITICAL PARTICIPATION, OR WHO VOTES? So far we have studied three branches of government – the courts, Congress, and the executive. Now we turn to the fourth branch: you all, the citizenry. In the remainder of the course we ask how you - - voters, parties, interest groups - - affect politics. Political Participation by Citizens There are many ways to participate in politics. One is to vote. Voting has four steps : - Register to vote. This was once a hard step; it no longer is. - Go to the polls. - Select a subject on which to vote – a particular office or ballot issue. - Make a choice - - pick one of the options - - and record it as instructed. Other forms of participation: - Write to an office holder. - Speak publicly. - Persuade others privately. - Join associations (Sierra Club, trade organizations, labor unions, NRA, etc.). - Contribute money to political campaigns. (In most countries campaigns are publicly financed.) - Join a party. - Work for a party or candidate organization. - Run for office.
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2 Why Vote? It is hard to explain who votes and how because it is hard to explain why people vote at all. The paradox of not voting is that one vote makes no difference , so why bother to vote? - - but people do. In other words, because a single vote hardly ever makes a difference, it is hard to explain voting the same way we explain other acts. The act of voting is a puzzle. When is it rational to vote? Compare this question with another: When is it rational to gamble? Let a coin be tossed. When is it rational to bet on heads? Consider the following decision matrix (or table). It looks a bit like PD and other games, but it is not a game at all because, instead of two or more players, it has but one. He is playing against “nature,” or “chance,” not against another player. Probability p (1-p) H e a d s T a i l s B e t Player Don’t bet “Bet” and “Don’t bet” are strategies . “Heads” and “Tails” are states of nature . It is rational to bet only if the probability of winning times the amount of winnings is greater than or equal to the cost of betting, that is, $ winnings - $bet - $ bet 0 0
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3 p x winnings bet. Suppose: p = .05 (the coin is fair) bet = $1 and winnings = $2.50 Then 0.5 x 2.50 = 1.25 1. So it is rational to bet. But now suppose that winnings are only $0.75. Then the bet is irrational. Or suppose the potential winnings stay at $2.50 but the probability of heads drops to 0.25 (an unfair coin). Then the bet is irrational. We can apply the same kind of logic to ask when it is rational to carry an umbrella. Say it rains with probability p. Then it is rational to carry an umbrella if and only if: p x value of staying dry (compared with getting wet) cost of carrying umbrella. Let p = 0.1, cost = 0.5, and value of staying dry = 10. Then it is rational to carry an
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lecture15 - UCLA PS 40 Department of Political Science...

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