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The altruism theory of voting is a model of voter behavior which states that if citizens in a democracy have “social” preferences for the welfare of others, the extremely low probability of a single vote determining an election will be outweighed by the large cumulative benefits society will receive from the voter’s preferred policy being enacted, such that it is rational for an “altruistic” citizen, who receives utility from helping others, to vote. Altruistic voting has been compared to purchasing a lottery ticket, in which the probability of winning is extremely low but the payoff is large enough that the expected benefit outweighs the cost.

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  • Altruism theory of voting
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  • The altruism theory of voting is a model of voter behavior which states that if citizens in a democracy have “social” preferences for the welfare of others, the extremely low probability of a single vote determining an election will be outweighed by the large cumulative benefits society will receive from the voter’s preferred policy being enacted, such that it is rational for an “altruistic” citizen, who receives utility from helping others, to vote. Altruistic voting has been compared to purchasing a lottery ticket, in which the probability of winning is extremely low but the payoff is large enough that the expected benefit outweighs the cost.
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  • The altruism theory of voting is a model of voter behavior which states that if citizens in a democracy have “social” preferences for the welfare of others, the extremely low probability of a single vote determining an election will be outweighed by the large cumulative benefits society will receive from the voter’s preferred policy being enacted, such that it is rational for an “altruistic” citizen, who receives utility from helping others, to vote. Altruistic voting has been compared to purchasing a lottery ticket, in which the probability of winning is extremely low but the payoff is large enough that the expected benefit outweighs the cost. Since the failure of standard rational choice models—which assume voters' have "selfish" preferences—to explain voter turnout in large elections, public choice economists and social scientists have increasingly turned to altruism as a way to explain why rational individuals would choose to vote despite its apparent lack of individual benefit, the so-called paradox of voting. The theory suggests that individual voters do, in fact, derive personal utility from influencing the outcome of elections in favor of the candidate that they believe will implement policies for the greater good of the entire population.
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