• Thoughts on motivation for voting

    The general election is only just over, and I am sorry for being off my usual topics. I will return to them shortly. I would like to provoke thought on what motivates voters to vote for particular parties, briefly and rather anecdotally and theoretically.

    I have personally spoken, as mentioned anecdotally, to a number of Conservative voters (and this is not exclusive an exclusive claim) and the open admission is that the vote was in their own best interest. One of the big ones was tax reduction supposedly meaning more money in their pockets.

    This is human nature and is nothing, in and of itself, surprising.

    But it is not really what I would want from an electorate. This shows a deep-seated individualism which defines voting; I will vote for what is best for me even if it is not better for society as a whole (or simply ignoring calculations of what is best for society as a whole).

    I think what defines the left/right paradigm is the collectivist/individualist idea, but in a sense of that voting decision. This is not particularly striking, but it does hit home when people admit this openly. When you have parties wishing to get rid of Inheritance Tax (IHT), which proportionally affects the richer more and more, and reduce top-end taxes etc. etc. (and see who funds the respective party and for what reasons), then it is clear that the Conservatives and UKIP are in this game to benefit the richer in society. (Likewise, workers are in the best interests of Labour, one can argue, with Trades Unions playing their funding part). The problem is that, often, these things, like IHT, sustain privilege. I have lots of money (whether through hard work or privilege) and I leave it to my children; my children are not doing the hard work to get that. It is an accident of birth.

    As another commenter elsewhere quite rightly pointed out, there is also a real issue with the problematic notion of praiseworthiness and blameworthiness in a philosophical context. Are people to be praised or blamed for their situations of privilege or lack thereof (think free will theories here)? Part of this, for the record, stretches to the Victorian myth of blaming the poor’s poverty on laziness or some similar notions (eg “Poor people want to be poor, they say. Really?” or “Lazy, drunk, benefit cheats a myth, according to new report” from which the following quote comes):

    According to the report while over 80% of the UK population believe that “large numbers falsely claim benefits”, fraudulent claims have in fact decreased to historically low levels “that the tax system can only dream of.”

    Figures show that less than 0.9% of the welfare budget is lost to fraud.

    Addressing the myth that claimants “have an easy life” the report found that benefits “do not meet minimum income standards” and “have halved in value relative to average incomes over the last 30 years.”

    The report also found that fewer than 4% of benefit claimants report any form of addiction, while the majority of children in poverty are from working households.

    Figures also show that the proportion of our tax bills spent on welfare has remained stable for the last 20 years.

    The accident of birth problem is what the left seek to change, but the right seek to sustain. This is obvious, and disheartening, and what I think the people bemoaning the Conservative victory are tapping into. It’s this sense of injustice and inequality that humans have built into them (see fairness tests on bonobos, for example).

    Speaking to Green voters, I saw the complete opposite to this. Whether their policies are workable or not, is another question, but the intent is really quite clear: the benefit of a wider “us” over a narrower “me”, stretching across, even, species.

    There are lots of variables at work, but my impressions are that voting for the Conservative Party, for example (I live in a totally Conservative area, including most all of my family, many colleagues etc.), is a mix of social identity theory (us and them), tradition, and perceptions on economy, all within a context of benefiting the individual voter at the heart.

    There is a lot of intuitive desires post hoc rationalised, too.

    It’a all quite depressing! (and I won’t start on the wildly incorrect views of the many [family and colleague] UKIP voters I have spoke to. The above problems distilled and crystallised…)

    Category: FeaturedMoralityPoliticsPsychology


    Article by: Jonathan MS Pearce