The Dangers of Voting Without Thinking

I’m sorry, I really am. I know everyone else in in world is writing about the election this week (or watching, in the case of Russell Brand’s you-shouldn’t-vote-but-if-you-do-vote-vote-Labour video). But I promise not to try to persuade you to vote for anyone in particular, not to pledge billions in cuts/spending, and not to mention the war. Any of them.

No, the aim of this article is simply to encourage you to think before you vote, which may seem like an odd request. Head this way…


I was reading this fascinating article this week on ‘the psychology of voting’, which highlighted many of the things that unconsciously influence our decisions when it comes to choosing where to put the big ‘X’. The weather, how good looking the person is, even the precise angle of the flooring in the Polling Station all, allegedly, impact the direction in which our hands moves when the curtain is drawn behind us.

Whilst these are important to be aware of (and not just so you don’t fall over on a lop-sided laminate floor tile), the biggest danger to watch out for is a cognitive bias known as ‘confirmation bias’ – the in-built infliction which causes us to completely agree with the things we already agreed with. You know when you’re watching your football team play, and the referee is giving every decision to the other team? That’s confirmation bias – and the other lot of supporters are probably suffering from exactly the same, too.


This bias is usually most easily spotted in politics by seeing voters responses to scandals, being lenient when the camera-phone wielding politician is from the party we support, and demanding nothing but full resignation and public castigation when from the party we don’t. Come Election time, it goes in to overdrive.

Without checking facts in any real detail, Tory supporters completely agree that the the spending cuts are at the right level, whilst dismissing Labour’s plans as utter nonsense. With a similar lack of proper research and understanding, Labour supporters argue that the Tories’ cuts will destroy key services, and their party’s plans to spend are precisely correct.


We don’t help ourselves with this either. We read a newspaper that already supports our political views, feeding us information in the easiest way for us to agree. We follow people who share our views on Twitter, getting a minute-by-minute dose of why we’re right. And, of course, we surround ourselves with friends who see the world in the same way that we do.

So there’s three thoughts to leave you with, on how you can challenge yourself in the next few days:

  1. For the next week, buy the newspaper you would never normally buy – just to see the other perspective
  2. Visit ‘Vote for Policies’ to strip away some party and personality bias, and make your decision on facts and figures (or at least priorities and promises)
  3. Make a list of everything you like and admire about the parties you would never consider voting for – and another list of what you don’t like about your probable choice. Just to see what you come out with…


I really hope you enjoyed this article. If you did, I’d love you to subscribe to my blog at to get new thoughts sent to you on an infrequent basis, and find me on twitter @johnJsills.


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