People vote due to a sense that their actions influence other citizens, out of a sense of civic duty and as a reaction to the results of previous elections. One individual’s vote objectively has no effect on the outcome of an election, and psychologists have frequently studied voting motivations.
Many people assert that if everyone else chose not to vote, democracy would collapse. While this may be true, it is false that one citizen’s voting behavior has much influence on any other citizens’ voting behavior. Psychologists call this phenomenon “magical thinking”: people’s belief that their own thinking influences others’ thinking.
Other citizens vote out of a sense of civic duty. The reasoning goes that, regardless of whether an individual’s vote actually influences the outcome of an election, it is that citizen’s duty to vote. This again is a fallacy, as the objective fact is that one citizen’s vote actually rarely does anything to uphold democracy or the election process.
Psychologist Satoshi Kanazawa’s research into the psychology of voting suggests that people may vote or not vote as a response to the outcomes of previous elections. Those who do vote and see their candidate of choice elected are more likely to vote again in the next election, because their choice was validated. Those who vote for the unsuccessful candidate are less likely to vote again in future elections, because their choice was not validated.