Voting seems to be a case of what social scientists call want-should conflict. I know I’m supposed to watch “Schindler’s List,” but it’s more fun to indulge in “The Avengers.” I realize I should eat the salad, but the pizza looks delicious. To borrow a turn of phrase from Mark Twain, I want to have voted, but I don’t want to vote.
The first problem is that for many people, voting has little to do with their identities. Do I see myself as an American? Absolutely. Do I think we live in a great country? Of course. I’ve shown my national pride in various ways. But it never occurred to me that voting could be one.
If we want people to vote, we need to make it a larger part of their self-image. In a pair of experiments, psychologists reframed voting decisions by appealing to people’s identities. Instead of asking them to vote, they asked people to be a voter. That subtle linguistic change increased turnout in California elections by 17 percent, and in New Jersey by 14 percent.
The reason is that nouns are more powerful than verbs. When I think about voting, I can skip it and still see myself as a good citizen. But when I think about being a voter, now the choice reflects on my character. It casts a shadow.
–Adam Grant, “Don’t Like the Candidates? Vote Anyway,” NY Times, October 2, 2016