Two-thirds of NYU students polled said that they would give up their right to vote for a year’s tuition and twenty percent would sell for an IPod.
According to the Politico:
66 percent said they’d forfeit their vote for a free ride to NYU. And half said they’d give up the right to vote forever for $1 million.
But they also overwhelmingly lauded the importance of voting.
Ninety percent of the students who said they’d give up their vote for the money also said they consider voting “very important” or “somewhat important”; only 10 percent said it was “not important.”
I have found the same response around the country when I speak to colleges. I often ask college audiences whether they would sell me their first amendment rights for $100,000 — they overwhelmingly say that they would take the offer. Constitutional rights are an abstraction to most Americans while the monetary offer is concrete and tangible. This is why running for office on fear is always better than civil liberties. Fear is more tangible in terms of a terrorist attack on a city or a plane. Civil liberties are a mere abstraction.
Votings is even more difficult for students to value since few elections turn on a small number of votes, particularly in national elections. A rational actor can easily conclude that tuition is a far greater value than a vote that will only contribute to the often large margin of victory or loss in a given election. The reason for voting is not that it actually makes a difference, but because it constitutes a civic duty regardless of its impact. Public schools have largely abandoned civil values as a subject, however. Students today are raised as citizens in a largely market and consumer driven mentality. It is no surprise therefore that they would make the efficient, wealth maximizing choice over the civic-oriented, collective choice.
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