POLI 360 – Lecture 2
Calculus of Voting (Riker and Ordeshook, 1968) Continued
If citizens behave logically (ex. engage in behavior that’s benefits outweigh its costs),
then they should only vote if they have clear rewards from voting (ex. if R is positive).
This analysis only examines the empirical standpoint, not the normative standpoint.
R will not be positive for most citizens since PB is almost equal to 0, and C is usually
bigger than D.
It is, however, in the candidates’ benefits to convince their followers to vote and to create
positive rewards for their supporters. Parties allow candidates to do this by influencing
costs and benefits of voting.
Essentially, the calculus of voting leads to parties, which then influence costs and
benefits to get elites elected.
Parties mobilize their supporters by reducing their costs of voting (C). For example, “get
out the vote” efforts decrease supporters’ costs of transportation. Additionally, party
advertising decreases supporters’ costs of gathering information. For instance, parties
could provide supporters with basic campaign platforms for their candidates as well as
locations of local polling places.
Parties also rally their followers by increasing their psychological benefits (D). For
example, party rallies and conventions increase supporters’ attachments to the party and
the party’s candidates. Parties also seek to paint the opposition party in the worst possible
Issue Ownership Issue: the idea that certain parties “own” certain issues. For example,
Republicans “own” taxes and foreign policy. Parties diminish issues that their opposing party owns as well. For example, George W. Bush ran on the No Child Left Behind Act
in 2001, reducing differences in educational policy between Republicans and Democrats.
Ideally, Republicans believed that this would reduce Democratic motivation to vote since
both parties appeared to have the same positive stance on education.
Aldrich argues that elites create parties to solve problems of ambition, social choice, and
A critique of Aldrich’s work is that it is too fixated on political elites and reduces
citizens’ interests generating parties.
Parties and Citizens’ Needs
Parties serve three principle interests of citizens: they make voting easier, they inform
citizens, and they connect citizens to their government.
o Studies show that citizens pay slight attention to politics and do not know many
particulars about politics. This is not surprising, given the numerous strains on
o Parties offer information shortcuts to aid citizens’ decision making. These
shortcuts pose no negative consequences for society, since shortcuts and “long-
cuts” offer the same outcome, and citizens have the opportunity to save time as
o Citizens know what parties stand for, so they can follow a simple party label and
still vote for their interests. Essentially, citizens do not need to know specific
candidates’ policy stances in order to vote.