NYU Students Overwhelmingly Would Sell Their Vote for as Little as an IPOD

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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3 thoughts on “NYU Students Overwhelmingly Would Sell Their Vote for as Little as an IPOD

  1. I was out of town on a 2-day conference when Professor Turley posted this item, and so missed immediately posting a reaction.

    But a reaction, some feedback, is clearly called for. This item may be one of the most chilling I have read in its obvious implications for our democracy and constitution.

    Note my other post on the failings of our ability to act on long-term forecasts.

    This is of similar ilk. Pay-off matrices are skewed to individual reward rather than group reward when the assumption is that group survival will “take care of itself”
    in some undetermined but expected fashion.

    The mass society instills in its members a rational expectation that wrongs will collectively get righted and so individual support is unnecessary for needful institutions.

    Thus the long continuing success of the GOP in appealing to individual opt-outs on the taxation necessary to maintain collective welfare.

    The bigger the society gets, the less the individuals feel their defection harms the whole.

    Thats accurate and rational except for the “what if everyone did as I do” consideration.

  2. Indeed, citizens have long viewed voting as an inefficient exercise. The problem is that we often define the issue as “having an impact” in the actual vote as opposed to the exercise of the vote.

  3. Which fact, we suppose, the two political parties know well.

    This whole phenomena tends to tilt the system toward immoderacy, where passionate (ipso facto: voting) minorities tilt their parties to extreme positions.

    Was it James G Blaine: “When I want something, I want it terribly?”

    The only defense that can be made for the otherwise baffling lack of action on the part of the Senate Democrats is that they are manfully resisting the voices of those immoderate but voting, partisans with their silly fixations on the balance of powers and the constitutional obligations of Congress, and heroically and at great sacrifice trying to navigate the moderate course that their counselors assure them that the great bulk of the supine, non-voting electorate would have them chart. Or perhaps, since the sleeping masses don’t care a fig, the elected Democrats merely attend to the interests of the non-partisan, non-shrill, donors who as we all know are as unsleeping in their legislative vigilance as Cerberus… How Hamiltonian of them.

    The perils of scale: something the Founders never took into account.

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