The most crucial factor in determining whether people vote isn’t self-interest—as most Intro Poli-Sci courses would have us believe—but altruism. Greater Good reports on recent research showing that a focus on helping others is “even more influential than people’s age, income, or education level” when it comes to making it to the ballot booth. So what does this mean for 2008 presidential hopefuls or organizations working to increase voter turnout?
It means they’ll have to learn how to make people give a damn... about other people. Campaigners may want to take heed of the findings, discovered in separate studies by political science professors Richard Jankowski of the State University of New York, Fredonia, and James Fowler of the University of California, San Francisco. Jankowski, for instance, tells Greater Good that get-out-the-vote campaigns “can have a small effect.... But on the whole, I don’t see them having much effect until we get at the root cause of what drives people to get politically involved.” So here’s our challenge: Get citizens to see the altruistic potential of politics. —Anna Cynar