Wednesday, November 14, 2007

The Price of a NYU Student's Vote

Drudge went for the (misleading) headline that sounded best: "NYU STUDENTS WOULD GIVE UP RIGHT TO VOTE FOR AN IPOD TOUCH".

Drudge's sensationalism notwithstanding, the truth isn't nearly such a talking point, but still interesting. A recent NYU journalism survey found that, of students surveyed:

  • 20 percent would trade their right to vote for an iPod Touch.
  • 66 percent would trade their vote for a free ride to the University (the article doesn't say whether this is was one ride or not).
Other vote prices: A year's tuition (66% of students), One Million Dollars (50% would trade lifetime voting rights).

The bigger story: 70.5 percent of students think that one vote can make a difference. Is this a theoretical, butterfly-creates-a-whirlwind possibility to these students, or do they really believe that a single vote can make a difference?

Seventy percent of students who said that they would give up their right to vote also said that they think a vote can make a difference. They would make the economically-correct decision but they don't understand it.

The stats:

NYU students who understand economics: 0.5%
NYU students who not only don't understand economics, but are possibly immoral: 70%

How much is an individual vote worth, especially in a state like New York that's already pretty much locked Democratic? Have you ever seen a presidential election that came down to a few votes?

One vote?

Your vote?

I don't know how to do the calculations but I don't think you'd get a Snickers out of your vote.

I don't know if the rest of these students understand economics, but they are willing to make a statement by theoretically retaining their right to vote at real personal expense. I have to respect that - though the worth of their actual vote in hard cash may be negligible, the right to vote is worth far more than the vote itself. The fact that we're allowed to vote is a rare privilege. So - no hard feelings either way, as long as you understand the economics of your situation.

Still, the entire democratic system is set up so that one vote can't make a difference. It's set up that way. Imagine if Li'l Joe Boy Muslimhater Gun Nut had a real influence on the election. Michael "Sausage" Savage would be President before you knew it, and Arizona would be knee-deep in land mines or something.

Go for the tuition.

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