Voting choice and rational choice

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Rational choice theory may seem like a separate theoretical approach with its own forbidding mathematics. However, the central assumptions of rational choice theory are very similar to those in mainstream political behavior and even interpretive sociology. Indeed, many of the statistical methods used in empirical political behavior assume axiomatic models of voter choice. When we consider individual voting behavior, the contribution of rational choice has been to formalize what empirical political scientists do anyway, and provide some new tools. However, it is when we consider collective voting choice—what elections mean and what kind of policy outcomes result—that rational choice leads to new, counterintuitive insights. Rational choice also has a normative dimension. Without voter rationality the traditional understanding of democracy as popular choice makes little sense.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationOxford Research Encyclopaedia of Politics
EditorsWilliam Thompson
Place of Publication[New York]
PublisherOxford University Press
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jul 2016

Publication series

NameOxford Research Encyclopaedias
PublisherOxford University Press


  • rational choice
  • voting
  • social choice
  • elections
  • rationality


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