Does Your Vote Affect Public Policy?

Or is that just wishful thinking?
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A voter puts in his ballot for the Michigan presidential primary at a polling station in Warren, Michigan, on March 8, 2016. (Photo: Geoff Robins/AFP/Getty Images)

A voter puts in his ballot for the Michigan presidential primary at a polling station in Warren, Michigan, on March 8, 2016. (Photo: Geoff Robins/AFP/Getty Images)

Over at the Montclair Socioblog, Jay Livingston discusses a recent study showing that some Americans don't think that their votes make any difference in how they're governed. Those of us who care about politics often respond to this kind of pessimism with the old adage that every vote counts, but are we wrong?

Livingston suggests that we're not.

He cites political science research that compared 1,779 policy outcomes with the preferences of ordinary voters, economic elites, and interest groups. Here's the data; note that if the black line is going up to the right, that means that the policy outcomes and preferences align.

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The slope on the relationship between "average citizens'" preferences and policy is, Livingston writes, "close to zero." The disaffected, in other words, might be onto something.

What about those of us who care about policy? It seems to me the takeaway message from this research isn't not to vote, but to get involved in changing the outsized role money has in politics. If we really want to make the country a better place, voting isn't enough.

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This story originally appeared on Sociological Images, a Pacific Standard partner site, as "Does Your Vote Affect Public Policy?"

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