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August 2000
208 pages  

6 x 9
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To Vote or Not to Vote?
The Merits and Limits of Rational Choice Theory
Blais, André
Blais tackles the controversial topic of rational choice theory in an engaging and personal way, bringing together the opposing theories and literatures, and offering convincing tests of these different viewpoints in order to find out what makes people decide to vote.

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André Blais is professor of political science and fellow with the Centre de recherche et développement en économique at the Université de Montréal. He has published twelve books and more than one hundred articles in journals such as the American Journal of Political Science, the British Journal of Political Science, Comparative Political Studies, and Public Choice. He was a member of the editorial board of the International Encyclopedia of Elections, and he is the principal co-investigator of the Canadian Election Study.
“Bringing to bear a wealth of data from a broad range of countries, André Blais offers a smart and evenhanded assessment of the empirical adequacy of rational choice theories of voting. Readers will find Blais’s synthesis both useful and insightful.”—Donald Green, Yale University

“Blais very carefully lays out the different versions of rational choice theory applied to voting, and shows logically, empirically, and comparatively where they work and where they do not. It is the most thorough treatment of the subject I have ever seen. He does a splendid job of clarifying difficult material without ‘dumbing it down.’ The work is benchmark.”—Michael S. Lewis-Beck, University of Iowa

“Blais examines the vital issues of what makes people decide to vote in political elections and referendums. The informative and very highly recommended text is enhanced for political sciece students with a pertinent mumber of relevant appendices. “ -- Wisconsin Bookwatch, June 2001 Vol. 11 no. 6

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Political Science/Policy, Theory, Law

What makes people decide to vote? In addressing this simple question, André Blais examines the factors that increase or decrease turnout at the aggregate, cross-national level and considers what affects people’s decision to vote or to abstain. In doing so, Blais assesses the merits and limitations of the rational choice model in explaining voter behavior. The past few decades have witnessed a rise in the popularity of the rational choice model in accounting for voter turnout, and more recently a groundswell of outspoken opposition to rational choice theory. Blais tackles this controversial subject in an engaging and personal way, bringing together the opposing theories and literatures, and offering convincing tests of these different viewpoints. Most important, he handles the discussion in a clear and balanced manner. Using new data sets from many countries, Blais concludes that while rational choice is an important tool—even when it doesn’t work—its empirical contribution to understanding why people vote is quite limited. Whether one supports rational choice theory or opposes it, Blais’s evenhanded and timely analysis will certainly be of interest, and is well-suited for advanced undergraduate and graduate-level classes.


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