Are You Happy You Voted — Or Didn't?

New research shows that, in general, people who vote are “very happy” with their choices and those who did not vote doubt they did the right thing.

In a study published in Party Politics, researchers from the University of Montreal looked at 22 election surveys conducted in Canada, France, Germany, Spain, and Switzerland between 2011 and 2015.

The surveys polled 19,452 people — 17,561 voters, 1,891 abstainers — in a variety of elections (federal, legislative, state, provincial, regional, municipal, and European).

The researchers found that the vast majority — 97 percent — who voted were glad they did. Only 60 percent of non-voters were glad they abstained.

“This is an encouraging result for those who are concerned with the recent turnout decline that has been observed in most western democracies,” said political scientist André Blais, who led the study. “This is consistent with the presence of a social norm according to which citizens have a moral duty to participate in elections; at least some of those who do not follow the norm have doubts about the wisdom of their choice.”

The study also shows that people who are interested in politics, who feel that they have a moral duty to vote in elections, and who feel close to a party are more prone to be satisfied with their decision to vote and to be dissatisfied if they chose to abstain. Older voters, especially, are happy they cast their ballot, according to the study’s findings.

“At every election, people must decide whether to vote or not,” the researchers stated in the study. “It is fair to assume that some people are uncertain about whether they should participate or not. It is not surprising to see that, ex post, some people, especially non-voters, believe that they may have made the wrong choice.

“This raises the very important question of whether that judgment is durable and, consequently, whether it has an impact on the decisions that citizens make in the following elections. The fact that older respondents feel more positive about their decision suggests that there is indeed a learning effect, and that people correct the mistakes that they possibly made in the first elections — and this may very well be one of the reasons why turnout increases over the life cycle.”

Source: University of Montreal