Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Pluralistic Ignorance

Here is my post on voting. Next Tuesday is voting day in America and I will be voting. I always tell people the reason I make certain I vote is because my belief is if you want the right to complain about the government you need to be responsible and vote. If you aren't planning on voting, shame on you there are many places in the world where voting is not allowed. Now I sound like a mother telling her child to eat liver because, “there are starving children in the world.”

My brother is running for a state office and as all candidates, is hopeful of winning his election. He is running against an incumbent, but does have name recognition on his side. This however is not what has spurred me to write, but does play a part. What spurred me was a six o'clock news story about how a major supporter of one independent candidate has withdrawn his support from the candidate giving it to one of his opponents and is encouraging other to do the same. No biggie right, people change support all the time? However, the reason behind this move is what was so stunning, the reason is to throw support to an apparent party underdog to beat the other opponent. It wasn't for a difference in opinion, it wasn't because the supporter felt the other person was better suited for the job, NO! It was simply to attempt to ensure the other candidate did not win. Those common folk who were switching their allegiance even confessed that they felt their first choice was the better choice, but were not convinced he could win.

Enter pluralistic ignorance. Pluralistic Ignorance is one person acting a certain way because they believe that is what the “social norm” is, even though they privately reject the “social norm,” not realizing there are others who also reject that norm, but also think they are alone in this belief. This is my simplified understanding of the phrase and not the “technical” definition. In regards to the election mentioned above, I wonder how many supporters of the independent believe this person is the best person for the job, but because of “polls” and “opinions” are convinced he is going to lose? When truth be told, there are enough believers out there, who if they voted their own way, their own opinion, might win the election for this person.

As I look around at the world I have come to recognize many instances of pluralistic ignorance. On TV, at work, in the newspaper, in faith-based organizations...etc. People who say they believe a certain way, but act another. So here is my decision regarding this Tuesday's election. I am not going to cast my vote because of party affiliation, or because I need to vote the way (I believe) peers in my social circle vote. I am going to cast my vote for the people I feel are best suited to the job, regardless of whether they win or not. In regards to referendums and bond issues I am going to vote the way I believe is best for the state, regardless of what polls and news stories state. I encourage everyone else to do the same, especially vote!


  1. This is an interesting post and I do agree that people tend vote for winners rather than the candidate they believe in. I will be voting although I believe that the candidate I hope will win will probably not. As you say then at least I've earned my right to complain.

  2. Similar to not voting because you think your vote won't count. If 100 people act that way it could make a difference. I plan to vote first thing in the morning because even though my candidate is "up" in the polls I'd like to make sure of the win.