Saturday, July 21, 2007

आ दोव्न्सिदे ऑफ़ कोम्पुल्सोर्य voting

A downside of compulsory voting

One downside of compulsory voting in a democracy is the obvious point that even the least informed people have their opinion weighed. People who make no effort to vote are unlikely to know much about public affairs.

But there may be another downside, especially for a parliamentary democracy: the ruling elite can use statistical methods to such precision as to be able to read the election outcomes with uncanny ability. This tool would be especially helpful in timing a parliamentary election, as long as the lag time weren't too great.

Consider that the Gallup poll is forced to use a complicated, weighted sampling system in order to predict U.S. election outcomes. Otherwise, people who are unlikely to vote would count the same as those who are likely, and a serious bias could be introduced into the experiment.

The consequence is that the Gallup error rate swings quite widely by comparison with a standard error for simple random samples of the same size as used by Gallup. That's the best Gallup can do. Simple random sampling is believed to introduce bias. So all this is why political pollsters are not terribly good at calling a fairly close race. Hence, ruling elites find life much more difficult and predicting a winner is much more chancey. Presumably that fact helps democracy.

Yet, in a democracy where voting is compulsory, simple random sampling of adults is likely to predict the winner with painfully exact accuracy -- barring some unforeseen wild card -- even in fairly tight races. This means that political control is far easier for the few to manage. Bad for democracy.


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