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A New Solution to the Collective Action Problem: The Paradox of Voter Turnout

Satoshi Kanazawa
American Sociological Review
Vol. 65, No. 3 (Jun., 2000), pp. 433-442
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2657465
Page Count: 10
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A New Solution to the Collective Action Problem: The Paradox of Voter Turnout
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Abstract

Macy's work offers a potential solution to the paradox of voter turnout. The stochastic learning theory of voter turnout (Kanazawa 1998) posits that citizens perceive a correlation between their behavior (voting versus abstention) and the outcome of collective action (win versus loss for their candidate), and that they interpret the outcome as a reinforcer or a punisher. The theory can solve the paradox of voter turnout because now p, the probability that one's vote is or appears decisive, equals approximately .500 in the calculus-of-voting model (instead of p ≅ 0). I use General Social Survey data to test the theory. The empirical results indicate that citizens make their turnout decisions according to the "Win-Stay, Lose-Shift" pattern predicted by the stochastic learning theory, especially if there are no strong third-party candidates.

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