Are Voters Rational?

Fitting in a year of presidential elections in Austria and the United States, Webster Vienna Business and Management faculty member Ralph Schoellhammer published a book chapter on the question of voting behavior. The article outlines the misperception of political participation as a purely rational act, the role of emotions and morality in group formation and conclude with a section on what this means for contemporary politics in Europe and the United States. The observation that political participation is not only a means of individual utility maximization is especially important with regards to the youth vote, for young people show a specific tendency to be influenced by emotional appeals in politics. The rise of populist parties and individual political agents like Donald Trump show the strong return of emotions and appeals to identity in competitive electoral systems, and current trends indicate that this development will become more, not less, pronounced in the future.

Ralph Schoellhammer’s piece provides an overview of current research in this field and emphasis the strong intersection of economics, politics, and psychology – an interdisciplinary phenomenon that overlaps with the research focus of many of Webster’s faculty.