Rationality and society vol:18 issue:4 pages:419-441
The renowned paradox of voting arises when one tries to explain the decision to go out and vote in an exclusively instrumental framework. Instead of postulating that voters always derive utility from the act of voting, I want to search for the reasons that underlie the absence or presence of a preference for voting. In my noninstrumental account of expressive rationality, citizens want to express who they are and what they care about. Whether or not one votes therefore depends on the force of one’s commitments to principles, norms, ideologies or particular persons. This has been confirmed by empirical research showing that citizens vote because they feel they have to, not because they like doing so. Complementing instrumental rationality, this concept of expressive rationality gives a fuller, deeper and more adequate view of the way citizens make political decisions, thereby solving the paradox of voting.