Sunday, March 30, 2014


I often hear about voters deciding who to vote for based on emotion rather than rational responses to the issues. However, this is not an all-or-nothing situation with some voters making decisions purely for rational reasons while others decide only for emotional reasons. The simple truth is that just about all voters, including the most well-informed amongst us, have emotional responses to issues. If we didn’t, we probably wouldn’t bother to vote. When State Senator Jason Carter, who's a candidate for governor voted for the sweeping gun bill that allows individuals to carry a weapon anywhere, anytime, he caught some grief from many gun control advocates in the state. That was a emotional issue that will drive those who opposed to the bill to get active in this 2014 election season. (Note: NRA gives Carter a A rating)

When you think about the issues that matter, you are likely to have intense emotional reactions to different stances on these topics. If you support gay marriage and care about gay marriage, you will be happy imagining a time where any gay couple has the same legal rights as any straight couple. If you are against gay marriage, you probably smile at the thought of a world where no gay couple can get married. However, emotions may be even stronger on the negative side. For example, if you are pro-life, the idea of legalized abortions being available to anyone with an unwanted pregnancy probably makes your blood boil. In contrast, if you are pro-choice, hearing politicians talking about abolishing Roe v. Wade is likely to make you very upset. You can take just about any issue you are care deeply about, and thinking about an outcome that goes against what you hope for will likely get you very upset. That is not so bad as emotions, and particularly negative emotions like fear and anger are what drive many people to volunteer, make donations and, of course, vote!

When we think about the issues that matter most to us, we are likely to have intense emotional reactions to different stances on these topics. It is important to note that many people get emotional about issues, even if they are not personally affected by them. There are also many heterosexual voters who are passionate about promoting equal rights for gays and white males who are committed to affirmative action. There are even very wealthy Americans making donations to political candidates who will increase their own taxes. This includes the two wealthiest people in the country, Bill Gates and Warren Buffet. Similarly, many voters have secure jobs with excellent health insurance benefits, but are still very emotionally committed to public options for healthcare

Emotion often gets a bad rap. The fact that emotion drives much of voting is not a bad thing. Emotion drives the passion that leads people to volunteer, make personal donations to causes they care about, and deal with the hassle of voting. So don’t feel bad about not being purely rational. Get emotional, get involved, and vote.

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