Psychological benefits of voting
Election Day is Nov. 4, and based upon past voting analysis, less than six out of every ten eligible voters will choose to cast their vote. The voting turnout for the last Presidential Election in 2004 was 56.7 percent, which was the highest rate since the 1968 election.
According to experts who study voting trends, there are roughly three general attitudes that determine how a person views the importance of voting. The first category is dominated by the feelings of obligation and duty. Individuals in this category believe it is their patriotic duty to vote. They believe that by exercising their right to vote, they are honoring the service men and women who paid the ultimate price for our nation.
The second category is dominated more by a sense of convenience; individuals will vote if they are able to make it to a polling station before it closes. They view voting as important but not mandatory; it is just one more responsibility that should get done by the end of the day. Finally, there are a number of individuals who choose not to cast a vote because they do not believe their vote matters and nothing of substance will ever change. This attitude may partially explain why close to 30 percent of eligible American voters do not even bother to register.
Regardless of these views, there are some basic psychological benefits that can result from exercising your right to vote. First, when faced by any kind of challenge, it is important to take action. Even when an individual cannot fix large and complex problems such as the nation's financial crisis, the rising cost of living, or the war in Iraq and Afghanistan, it feels better to take action than to simply believe that all of this is beyond our control. By taking a stand and voting, a person may feel less helpless in the face of these challenges, and may feel somewhat more optimistic just by actively contributing through the election process. Another benefit from voting is the inherent participation in something bigger than us. By casting your vote, you become an active part of your community, state, and country. Numerous studies have shown that people who are involved in organizations, communities, or social causes tend to be more optimistic and content than those people who are uninvolved.
Yes, it is possible that your candidate may not win, and you will feel your efforts were in vain. But then additional psychological benefits of voting come into effect, through those of acceptance and learning to compromise.
Contributed by Ken Loos, MS, LMLP, LCP Prevention, Education, and Outreach Dept.
Mail questions to: High Plains Mental Health Center, PLAIN SENSE, Prevention, Education, and Outreach Department (PEO), 208 East 7th, Hays, KS 67601; or visit www.highplainsmentalhealth.com.