The voting process


The voting process requires individuals to participate in the electoral process. The motivations behind their participation may thus be explained by both the rational choice theory and the institutional paradigm as argued in the essay. In my opinion however, the institutional paradigm plays a role as a major influencing factor on how people vote as opposed to their personal interests. I say this with the knowledge that behind every action that people do lies a personal interest of wanting to be better or more successful.

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In the institutional paradigm, voters consider the social benefits that they may gain from voting a specific person into office and also consider how well that person fits into existing social structures and norms.  The reality of the voting process is that whoever comes into power has little time to address the personal interests of each and every individual in the society. However, they address policy issues that affect the general population and the society at large. This is well known even to the individual voters.

Proponents of the rational choice theory would argue that by addressing policy issues that affect the general public, people who make decisions based on their self-interests would still find a reason to vote. A political candidate who promises to improve the basic infrastructure of doing business in a country will for example be serving the self-interest of a business rationalist albeit indirectly.

As Brinton and Nee (2001) however state, the rational choice theory is slowly losing its place in institutionalist sociology because the ability of human beings to remain rational is becoming limited as the chances of getting personal attention diminish.  This means that even though rationalists will pursue purposive actions like voting, it is hard for them to ignore the costs and benefits that arise in an institutional environment.


 Brinton, M. C. &   Nee, V. (2001).  The New Institutionalism in Sociology. Palo Alto: Stanford University Press.

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