Tuesday, March 4, 2008

On Voting and Timing

In a few hours we may or may not know more about the Democratic race to the presidential candidacy. It has occurred to me, however, that this highly unusual and quite interesting primaries season has emphasized something we normally don't give much thought to: That when people know how others are voting, it effects their own votes.

Normally campaigns go on for as long as they go on, and the voters are inundated with messages well beyond what they may want to receive, but then late one night it all abruptly ends, and the next morning the voters get up and go to vote, all together. (In Chicago they vote early and often, but all on the same day). Whatever the communal choice was on that particular day, that's the result everyone will live with until the next elections.

Not so with the primaries this year (in 2004, if you've forgotten, the whole thing was over by New Hampshire). In 2008 each group of voters has had time to watch all its predecessors, to mull over their choices, and then to cast a vote not only on a candidate, but on what the other folks have already tried to say. And lo and behold: given the protracted period of decision making, it turns out that many people vote differently than they might have had the election been all on one day.

Someday some intelligent thinker should write a book about what all this means.

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