Many countries with elected governments have political parties of politicians with similar beliefs to support those who are running for office. Sometimes this devolves into a system where two parties, typically one representing relatively left wing views and another representing relatively right wing views, are the most popular to the extent where almost no other party is considered as a serious candidate or is ever voted for.
Some people realise that this is not ideal, and speak out against it. However, it seems that people unwillingly (or perhaps willingly) actively promote this sytem. They do this by saying things such as:
“The smaller party you support will never win, so you shouldn’t support them”
“If you vote for one of the less popular parties then your vote will not contribute to one of the sides that have a chance at winning, so you’re throwing away your vote.”
There is a degree of truth to these statements, but they are overall counterproductive.
- They are self fulfilling prophecies
- They are manipulating the votes of others
- They are cynical
- They are strengthening the two party system
While voting for a minor party might have no result in an election, it is impossible to know this in advance. As a result, the idea of “throwing away your vote” should only be considered in extreme cases where it is absolutely necessary to avoid a very bad party winning. In the vast majority of cases however, one should never think along these lines.
The biggest problem with this ideology is that it is logically fallacious. If X amount of people were going to vote for a third, unpopular party, and a portion of them is convinced that they shouldn’t vote for that party, then the final vote count has been altered. By telling people that the third party will not receive enough votes to matter, they have actively reduced the amount of votes that party will get. This does not mean that one person is going to convince thousands of people to change their votes, unless they are a celebrity who has many people that listen to their opinions. Instead, a thousand people will convince one thousand more to change their vote from the third party to one of the major parties. This means that for every cynic that promotes this ideology and thinks that the third party will have few votes, they reduce the number of votes that party will get.
This is a self fulfilling prophecy. If no one had claimed that the third party would get few votes, they would have received more votes. By claiming that the third party would receive fewer votes, it convinced fewer people to vote for that party.
If there are one thousand people who would vote for a third party, and no one convinces them not to, this still might not be enough for the party to win. However, this increase in votes might convince more cynics that this party is a viable alternative. Perhaps the next year, they will receive even more votes. Regardless, people should be allowed to vote for who they think is the best party, because otherwise it leads to very limited options. Convincing people to change their vote, unless theres some immediate threat that requires people to vote a certain way, is irresponsible and disrespectful of the other person’s freedom.
This unintentional manipulation of votes also unintentionally or intentionally reinforces the two party system. By claiming that no one else can win, since it is a self fulfilling prophecy, it makes sure that every other party gets fewer votes, and that the two leading parties stay dominant, even if they are not the best choices.
As a result, no one should think that voting for a less popular party is throwing away your vote, as that makes little sense and hurts the voting system.