Is a vote "against the other guy" a wasted vote?

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shanek
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Is a vote "against the other guy" a wasted vote?

Post by shanek » Mon Sep 20, 2004 5:36 pm

In another thread, it was written:
Nyarlathotep wrote:I have voted for a third party candidate every election since I was old enough to vote, more to send a message than because I thought the guy could win. This year, after a lot of thought, I decided to vote for Kerry because I figured that this year getting Bush out of office seemed more important than my usual symbolic vote.
He's hardly the only one with this attitude. But, as much as I've been accused of "wasting my vote" on a candidate that "doesn't have a chance of winning," there's a new article showing how voting with the above attitude (keeping candidate X out of office) is entirely wasted:

http://www.lewrockwell.com/orig5/hooper1.html
To run the numbers, I created a Monte Carlo computer simulation model and ran well over 300,000 simulations. My model has two pretty evenly matched main political parties and three smaller ones that fight over roughly ten percent of the vote total. I defined voting groups, each with probability distributions. With these groups defined, I ran multiple runs of the model at 5,000 iterations (5,000 elections) each while varying the number of total voters.

It turns out that your one vote, and mine too, has a probability of swinging any evenly-matched election based on the following formula: Probability equals 3.64 divided by N, where N is the total number of votes cast. So for a small election, say for a homeowners' association with 100 members, your probability of casting the vote that determines the outcome is about 3.64 percent (or 0.0364). Stated differently, you'd have to vote in 27.5 elections to determine a single one. As we move up to the state and national level, the odds fall dramatically. With 11 million voters in California, where my friend and I live, the probability drops to 3.3 x 10-7 (0.00000033), which means that you'd have to vote in over three million presidential elections to determine the winner in California just once.

Of course, California isn't the whole country. California currently has 55 electoral votes out of a total of 538, with 270 needed to elect a president. Since 1852, when Californians first voted for U.S. president, California has been a key swing state in only two presidential elections...: A voter in California would have to vote in 57.5 million elections to determine one President of the United States.
What does this mean? Well, first of all it means that you'd have to vote for a very long time – 230 million years – to swing one election and all you'd have to show for it is a Bush in the White House instead of a Kerry (or visa versa). If you are like me and many other voters, you can't get very excited about either Bush or Kerry, so your final payoff would be lackluster, at best. For those who still think these odds look acceptable, consider the following comparisons. You are 12 times as likely to die from a dog attack, 34,000 times as likely to die in a motor vehicle accident, and 274 times as likely to die in a bathtub drowning as you are to swing a presidential election.
Now, what if my friend votes for Michael Badnarik, the 2004 Libertarian candidate? Is that vote wasted? Well, it is clear that no third-party candidate will win the 2004 election, but my friend's support would certainly help his favorite political party stay in business and therefore get noticed. While it is in business, his party will help define election issues and could even get lucky and elect a president...More likely, as any third party becomes successful, the Democrats and Republicans will simply adopt that party's platforms. The same thing happened with the Socialist party early in the 20th century. As Milton Friedman points out, the Socialists failed miserably with a popular vote total that peaked at only six percent in 1912. But they succeeded in the way that matters most. Dig below the surface and you'll find that virtually every economic plank of the Socialist's 1928 platform has since been written into law. The votes cast for these Socialists certainly weren't wasted from the point of view of those who cast them.
So, should you vote for Kerry to keep Bush out of office, or vice-versa? I say (somewhat facetiously): sure, if you want to waste your vote, go right ahead! On the other hand, if what you want is real change in politics, voting for either establishment party just isn't going to do it. But a vote for a third party just might, even if they don't get elected!

In either case, I say, don't vote for the same old same old--you'll only encourage them!
There is an old android saying. In binary it reads: 01001001001001110110110100100000011011100110111101110100001
00000011101110110010101100001011100100110100101101110011001
1100100000011100000110000101101110011101000111001100100001. Makes you think, huh?

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Post by OckhamRules » Mon Sep 20, 2004 5:43 pm

Shanek, I've made protest votes before for people I knew couldn't win. I've voted for candidates that I really believed were the best choice, even though they had absolutely no chance of winning.

After the 2000 election, I won't ever do that again.

Actually, I think its not so bad to vote that way in a national election if you live in a non-battleground state. (Having one of the "top two" candidates win the popular vote and lose the electoral college is of some, but limited, PR/criticism-of-the-other guy value).

But after seeing the 2000 election decided by a couple of hundred of votes? Yes, if you live in a contested state, I feel you're not just wasting your vote, but basically are casting it "FOR" the candidate of the two that you don't want.

97,000 people voted for Nader in Florida in 2000--most of them would otherwise have voted for Gore. Then Bush went on to "win" in Florida by a little over 500 votes--and that was enough to make him President. Totals in other states were even closer.

That election taught me a lot about voting in a closely contested state. Now, I would never do it.

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Post by Luke T. » Mon Sep 20, 2004 5:58 pm

A single vote against a candidate is never going to swing an election. But the simulation ignores the fact that a few hundred thousand votes against a candidate will.

Following the logic in the opening post, no one should bother to vote!
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Post by RCC » Mon Sep 20, 2004 6:03 pm

Luke T. wrote:A single vote against a candidate is never going to swing an election. But the simulation ignores the fact that a few hundred thousand votes against a candidate will.

Following the logic in the opening post, no one should bother to vote!
It sounds like someone taking the Yogism: "Nobody goes there, it's too crowded" way too far...

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Post by Nyarlathotep » Mon Sep 20, 2004 6:05 pm

Well of course one vote won't tip the election, I am surprised that the numbers come out as high in favor of it as they did. But whether I vote for Kerry, Badnarik or a monkey, my vote is still only one vote among many. It is a matter of which group I choose to contribute my tiny little contribution to, which group do I wish to strengthen to a miniscule degree.

Most years, I would agree with the articles final paragraph, that a vote for Badnarik helps keep the smaller parties afloat. That is why I USUALLY vote third party, contributing my vote to that cause in hopes that when enough people are disgusted with the two major parties, the major parties will either take notice or the third parties will win. This year, other factors take precedence to me. Not to mention that this year I don't like any of my third party choices either. Not even Badnarik (sorry Shane).

But this year, I really, really, really want Bush out of there. And my single vote is the only tool I have to accomplish that goal. Luckily I am not the only one who wants him out of there, so though my one little spit in the ocean vote means little on its own, it adds to that cause and hopefully will get him out. That's precisely what I mean it to do.

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Post by Geni » Mon Sep 20, 2004 6:06 pm

Luke T. wrote:A single vote against a candidate is never going to swing an election. But the simulation ignores the fact that a few hundred thousand votes against a candidate will.

Following the logic in the opening post, no one should bother to vote!
The numebr of people who vote when no presidential election has been decided by one vote (ignore the supream court other such stuff) is quite strange.
Last edited by Geni on Mon Sep 20, 2004 6:11 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Post by OckhamRules » Mon Sep 20, 2004 6:11 pm

LukeT wrote:A single vote against a candidate is never going to swing an election. But the simulation ignores the fact that a few hundred thousand votes against a candidate will.
Luke,

In 2000, the difference between winning and losing in New Mexico was 317 votes. Not thousands...tens of thousands...hundreds of thousands.

Just 317.

This year, again, just one state, won by just a few hundred votes--or less--could decide whether its a Kerry administration...or four more years of Bush.

Whether one's a Bush supporter or a Kerry supporter, what used to be a cliche is now a truism: every vote counts.

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Post by kerberos » Mon Sep 20, 2004 6:48 pm

OckhamRules wrote:
LukeT wrote:A single vote against a candidate is never going to swing an election. But the simulation ignores the fact that a few hundred thousand votes against a candidate will.
Luke,

In 2000, the difference between winning and losing in New Mexico was 317 votes. Not thousands...tens of thousands...hundreds of thousands.

Just 317.

This year, again, just one state, won by just a few hundred votes--or less--could decide whether its a Kerry administration...or four more years of Bush.

Whether one's a Bush supporter or a Kerry supporter, what used to be a cliche is now a truism: every vote counts.
Yes, but only if you live in a swing state, personally I'd vote for Kerry if I was American and lived a swing state, if I didn't live in a swing state my vote wouldn't matter in any case so I might as well vote for the candidate I liked best. That might still be Kerry of course, I don’t really know since there’s practically no holes in my ignorance concerning American third party candidates except for the little I know of Badnarik from the "Michael Badnarik, LP nominee, nutcase extraordinaire" thread, which, to be honest, is probably neither exhaustive nor entirely unbiased (fun though).
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Post by shanek » Tue Sep 21, 2004 11:54 am

Luke T. wrote:Following the logic in the opening post, no one should bother to vote!
Um, if you'd read the article, you would have seen his response to this point.
There is an old android saying. In binary it reads: 01001001001001110110110100100000011011100110111101110100001
00000011101110110010101100001011100100110100101101110011001
1100100000011100000110000101101110011101000111001100100001. Makes you think, huh?

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Post by shanek » Tue Sep 21, 2004 12:15 pm

Nyarlathotep wrote:Well of course one vote won't tip the election, I am surprised that the numbers come out as high in favor of it as they did. But whether I vote for Kerry, Badnarik or a monkey, my vote is still only one vote among many. It is a matter of which group I choose to contribute my tiny little contribution to, which group do I wish to strengthen to a miniscule degree.
But what is your vote going to do? Let's say that you're going to vote for Kerry because he's better than Bush, and one of your beefs with Bush is the Iraq war. What happens if Kerry gets elected? How will he interpret your vote? Is he going to say, "Gee, look at all the people who voted for me because they hate Bush. Maybe I should get us out of Iraq"? I don't think so! He's going to consider every vote an endorsement of his policy, which includes an even more protracted war in Iraq with even more troops!

With no major differences between the two candidates, I really have to wonder how people can think one evil is any lesser than the other.
Most years, I would agree with the articles final paragraph, that a vote for Badnarik helps keep the smaller parties afloat. That is why I USUALLY vote third party, contributing my vote to that cause in hopes that when enough people are disgusted with the two major parties, the major parties will either take notice or the third parties will win. This year, other factors take precedence to me.
Yes, yes, it's important to you that Bush is gone. You know, in 1996, all I could hear about was how bad Clinton was and how important it was for Dole to win to get Clinton out, or how bad Dole was and how important it was to reelect Clinton, and therefore I was "wasting my vote" on Browne. In 2000, I was told it was Gore we had to worry about, or Bush, same argument, different names, and again I was "wasting my vote" on Browne. Now, I'm hearing the exact same thing; the only difference, once again, is the names.

Sure, they tell me, in future elections we can vote third party and get some real competition in there, but THIS year one or the other candidate is so dangerous we just HAVE to make sure he doesn't win. But EVERY election year is becoming "THIS" year. If not now, when?

Don't you realize that getting locked into this trap is EXACTLY what the Democrats and Republicans want? That these same two parties, pretending to be at complete odds with each other, pass one "bipartisan" proposal after another, grabbing more power for themselves and destroying our rights, all the while blaming the other? That they happily conspire to pass unconsitutional ballot access and campaign finance laws to try and keep any competition at bay? That in state after state, they gerrymander their districts, dividing up the country as if they were a couple of organized crime mobs mapping their territory?

You say you "really, really, really want Bush out of there." Why? What are you so afraid of him doing? Waging war in Iraq? Kerry's gonna do that, too--he's even gonna send more troops! Enforcing the USA PATRIOT Act? Did you forget that both Kerry and his running mate voted for that? Mixing religion into politics? Have you HEARD any of Kerry's speeches to his fellow Catholics?

They warned is about Clinton in 1996. Clinton got reelected, and it wasn't the end of the world; it was just business as usual. They warned us about Bush in 2000. Yes, things are bad, but no worse than they would have been under Gore. Everything that's happened, the Iraq War, the USA PATRIOT Act, everything, is something that our politicians, BOTH DEMOCRAT AND REPUBLICAN ALIKE, were trying to do for years beforehand; the "war on terror" just gave them the perfect excuse to sell it to the people who were in such opposition to it before. Again, it's business as usual.

And so, no matter if Bush or Kerry wins in November, it's going to be just more business as usual, and the Demopublican machine will continue to run as it always has done. So, just what is it that you think you're going to get from Kerry that you won't get from Bush? Or what are you afraid Bush will do that Kerry won't? How are you going to get anything other than business as usual?
There is an old android saying. In binary it reads: 01001001001001110110110100100000011011100110111101110100001
00000011101110110010101100001011100100110100101101110011001
1100100000011100000110000101101110011101000111001100100001. Makes you think, huh?

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Post by shanek » Tue Sep 21, 2004 12:17 pm

Geni wrote:The numebr of people who vote when no presidential election has been decided by one vote (ignore the supream court other such stuff) is quite strange.
The number of people voting is irrelevant. The point is, your one vote is so unlikely to tip the election that it's ridiculous for you to cast it as if it were. So why is your best option not to vote for the candidate that would make the greatest difference to the country, no matter how miniscule that candidate's chances of winning are?
There is an old android saying. In binary it reads: 01001001001001110110110100100000011011100110111101110100001
00000011101110110010101100001011100100110100101101110011001
1100100000011100000110000101101110011101000111001100100001. Makes you think, huh?

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Post by shanek » Tue Sep 21, 2004 12:20 pm

OckhamRules wrote:In 2000, the difference between winning and losing in New Mexico was 317 votes. Not thousands...tens of thousands...hundreds of thousands.

Just 317.
Which is still much greater than 1. So even in a "swing state" you won't tip the balance. Even if your state did elect a candidate by 1 vote, look at the brouhaha in Florida after such a close vote, which was really ultimately decided by the Florida election officials and the Supreme Court. If a candidate only won by 1 vote, you'd see this in spades, and the decision would be made by whichever party is in control of the entity that makes the ultimate decision, and so your vote STILL WOULDN'T MATTER!
Whether one's a Bush supporter or a Kerry supporter, what used to be a cliche is now a truism: every vote counts.
Not if it's cast for someone you don't believe in.
There is an old android saying. In binary it reads: 01001001001001110110110100100000011011100110111101110100001
00000011101110110010101100001011100100110100101101110011001
1100100000011100000110000101101110011101000111001100100001. Makes you think, huh?

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Post by kerberos » Tue Sep 21, 2004 12:36 pm

shanek wrote:
Luke T. wrote:Following the logic in the opening post, no one should bother to vote!
Um, if you'd read the article, you would have seen his response to this point.
I just read the article and his response seemed to be:
"Based on these results, reasonable people may conclude that they should never vote. But if you do decide to cast your vote..." and
"Voting may still make sense"

Did I miss something? Because if that's an argument I'm a hamster. :P

He also notes that "you are approximately ten times more likely to die in an accident on the way than you are to swing that presidential election."
which certainly isn't an argument in favor of voting.
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Post by shanek » Tue Sep 21, 2004 12:43 pm

kerberos wrote:Did I miss something? Because if that's an argument I'm a hamster. :P
Well, offhand, I'd say you missed this:
More likely, as any third party becomes successful, the Democrats and Republicans will simply adopt that party's platforms. The same thing happened with the Socialist party early in the 20th century. As Milton Friedman points out, the Socialists failed miserably with a popular vote total that peaked at only six percent in 1912. But they succeeded in the way that matters most. Dig below the surface and you'll find that virtually every economic plank of the Socialist's 1928 platform has since been written into law. The votes cast for these Socialists certainly weren't wasted from the point of view of those who cast them.
Is that not an argument, or should I get you a salt lick and a little wheel? :P
There is an old android saying. In binary it reads: 01001001001001110110110100100000011011100110111101110100001
00000011101110110010101100001011100100110100101101110011001
1100100000011100000110000101101110011101000111001100100001. Makes you think, huh?

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Post by Luke T. » Tue Sep 21, 2004 1:10 pm

Okay, Shanek, you've convinced me. I won't be voting against Kerry. I see now that Bush is the lesser of three evils. So I'll be voting against Kerry and Badnarik.

Four. Four evils. I'll be voting against Kerry and Badnarik and Nader.
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Post by kerberos » Tue Sep 21, 2004 1:17 pm

Luke T. wrote:Okay, Shanek, you've convinced me. I won't be voting against Kerry. I see now that Bush is the lesser of three evils. So I'll be voting against Kerry and Badnarik.

Four. Four evils. I'll be voting against Kerry and Badnarik and Nader.
What happened to Lyndon LaRouche? Aren't you concerned about the nazi economists running the world economy? :D
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Post by kerberos » Tue Sep 21, 2004 1:46 pm

shanek wrote:
kerberos wrote:Did I miss something? Because if that's an argument I'm a hamster. :P
Well, offhand, I'd say you missed this:
More likely, as any third party becomes successful, the Democrats and Republicans will simply adopt that party's platforms. The same thing happened with the Socialist party early in the 20th century. As Milton Friedman points out, the Socialists failed miserably with a popular vote total that peaked at only six percent in 1912. But they succeeded in the way that matters most. Dig below the surface and you'll find that virtually every economic plank of the Socialist's 1928 platform has since been written into law. The votes cast for these Socialists certainly weren't wasted from the point of view of those who cast them.
I didn't really miss it, but he didn't link it directly to why I should vote at all, so I dodn't include it.
shanek wrote:Is that not an argument, or should I get you a salt lick and a little wheel? :P
It an argument all right, it just is a flawed and intellectually dishonest one. First of all he doesn't really establishes that the socialist program has been adopted, he simply claims it's so. I have no problem believing that US might have moved somewhat in that direction the last 100 years, but as I understand him he implies a wholesale adoption which I have trouble believing. US states isn't in any way a socialist country - not in the original sense of the word (if you want a real socialist country look up the Soviet Union) nor even in the somewhat more moderate sense the word is use in Europe and (I believe) US today. Secondly he doesn't really establish a causal relation between the 6% of the vote the socialists get and the supposed assimilation of their policy by the two major parties. These are however not the most serious problems. since they might simply have been caused lack of space and I might be reading more into his text than he meant to be there. T
he most serious problem is the flagrant dishonesty of his "calculations". When evaluating the effect of your vote for a major party he calculates the actual odds (though he doesn't explain exactly how he does it) and calculates only with the direct effect of your vote that is the odds that your vote will swing the election. when calculating the effect of a vote for a third party (in this case the socialist) on the other hand he does not calculate the odds that your vote will swing the election (which is on the far side of impossible), but uses the indirect effect, , it is of course impossible to calculate exact odds of one vote making a difference when measuring indirect effect, but you will (or at least should) notice that he never wonders what difference it would have made if the socialists had gotten one vote less, rather he discusses the effect on the entire vote the socialist party. What difference would one vote less for the socialists have made? Not much I dare say. So the only thing the argument demonstrates is intellectual dishonesty (and possibly that voting is a waste of time).
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Post by gnome » Tue Sep 21, 2004 4:05 pm

shanek wrote:Or what are you afraid Bush will do that Kerry won't? How are you going to get anything other than business as usual?
This is it in a nutshell from me. There are many things very important to me that I am afraid Bush will do, and expect Kerry won't.

I can direct you to a couple of threads around here if you need specifics.

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Post by gnome » Tue Sep 21, 2004 4:12 pm

shanek wrote:The number of people voting is irrelevant. The point is, your one vote is so unlikely to tip the election that it's ridiculous for you to cast it as if it were. So why is your best option not to vote for the candidate that would make the greatest difference to the country, no matter how miniscule that candidate's chances of winning are?
The relevant point here is something Douglas Hofstadter called "Super-rational thinking." I mention him because he put a name to it that really nails it down. What matters is not only my own vote, but the votes of others that reason the way I do. When deciding how to vote, I must consider the other people that are in the same mindset and thinking through the same scenario... and then consider what would happen if they all drew the same conclusion.

It's a bit self-referential, but it's necessary. I can get into this more if you want. Just gotta dig up my old "Metamagical Themas" tome.

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Post by Luke T. » Tue Sep 21, 2004 4:35 pm

So let's say I was a voter who wanted to vote against Bush and figured that meant I should vote for Kerry. But here we have a Libertarian telling me that my one vote won't make a damn bit of difference, and I therefore should vote for a third party candidate to send a message.

Totally contradictory. If my one puny vote is so insignificant, how the hell is it going to send a message? Obviously, the guy making the argument is also counting on mass numbers. He negates himself.

If everybody who was going to vote against Bush voted for a third party candidate, then Bush would have a message for you. "Thank you for helping me get re-elected."
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