Correct voting and post-election regret

By

André Blais

Université de Montréal

Anja Kilibarda

Columbia University

What’s the story?

Elections are often seen as a way for citizens to communicate their views. However, much research has shown that many voters are not well informed about the issues of the day. This raises the question whether some people make the wrong choice. That is, whether some may vote in a way that does not best reflect their interests and values and thus regret their decision after the fact.

This possibility has been discussed extensively in the aftermath of the Brexit referendum, as the media reported several instances of “Leave” voters expressing regret over not having chosen to stay instead (Opinium Research, 2016). But is this specific to the Brexit referendum? Or do some people, in every election, come to the conclusion, ex post, that they did not make the right decision? These are the questions that are addressed in this study.

Data

In order to examine the extent to which citizens regret how they voted after Election Day and the factors that lead one individual to be more regretful than another, we rely on data from 11 elections in five different countries. Voters in Canada, France, Switzerland, Germany and Spain were asked ex post whether they thought that the decision they made to vote for a given party was a very good, fairly good, fairly bad, or very bad decision.

Results

First, as shown in Figure 1, we find that the majority of citizens have no regret (that is, they answer that they made a very good decision) when it comes to their vote choice. Indeed, French voters express the least regret, with 69% of respondents believing their choice to have been a very good one, followed by voters in Quebec and Ontario, with 67% and 61% respectively. In most of the European regions surveyed about 50% of citizens express no regret.

Capture d’écran 2016-07-07 à 13.40.26

Furthermore, the results suggest that the politically well informed are somewhat less regretful than the relatively poorly-informed. Similarly, those who voted ‘correctly’ tend to be less regretful. Voting correctly means casting a vote that reflects one’s preferences and which is coherent with one’s ideological position. Having voted correctly mitigates regret. Also, the effect of correct voting on regret is greater among the least informed.

Conclusion

This research aimed to assess whether political information and correct voting affect the extent to which citizens regret the choices they made on Election Day. We find that regret is less prevalent among the politically well-informed and those who vote correctly. However, more research needs to be done on what makes voters more or less satisfied with their personal decisions.

For more details, see

André Blais & Anja Kilibarda. Forthcoming. “Correct Voting and Post-Election Regret. “ PS: Political Science & Politics.

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