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To what degree is sympathy towards a political party caused by the act of voting? (Cognitive dissonance)

Imagine being a first-time-voter, uninformed about the different political parties. It is easy to see, that you are likely to vote for the same party as your parents. Maybe you felt sympathy to that party before. Perhaps you did not care.

My question is, does the sympathy rise because of the act of voting?

You do not want to admit that you did a mistake. You start to filter information to match your action.
But cognitive dissonance is more than that: In an election there are always alternatives. You have to compromise, causing a cognitive dissonance, especially when your choice was wrong. You want to solve the dissonance by devaluing the alternative and appreciating the party you voted for.

This could also explain, why voters sometimes dislike rather similar parties more than differing parties. I see this in left parties in Germany.
I think it affects left parties more than other parties, because they want to help the poor, which is a very important and emotional topic.
Could this be a cause for the uprise of right parties? The left parties quarrel and the right parties rejoice? Can we overcome cognitive dissonance to act in concert?

What do you think about this?

  • Aug 23 2013: One of the most important forces in determining what we accept as "true" is confirmation bias. Humans are predisposed to accept as "true" whatever already agrees with them and reject as "false" whatever does not agree. Likewise, "mindlessness" is the most common mode of human though. Mindlessness in this context is the opposite of mindfulness. That is not a tautology, since mindlessness is usually used to mean something other than the strict opposite of mindfulness. Instead, we use "mindless" as a synonym for "stupid". In the psychological context, "mindless" means "running on autopilot", which is not always stupid. Indeed, we could not live without being mindless for much of the time. If every tiny little decision we made required careful deliberation, gathering of information, redeliberation, etc., nothing would ever happen. We would starve to death before being able to eat breakfast.

    However, if you combine our hardwired tendency to mindlessness in daily tasks plus our hardwired confirmation bias (which is also necessary to carry out the ordinary tasks of daily life) in a situation that is not an ordinary daily task, you have a recipe for disaster, you have politics as a substitute for religion.
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    Aug 21 2013: i would like to add the suggestion that the relation between the individual and any government can be adequately described as a typical case of the stockholm syndrome.
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    Aug 21 2013: I think that is a fascinating analysis. Upon aligning yourself with a political party you become more likely to ignore its faults because you are personally aligned with them.

    I like this talk on political affiliations by Jonathan Haidt:

    I think more humility in political discussions could lead to better compromise between political parties. I think more and more the futility of the current system is becoming apparent. It would be wonderful if that frustration could lead to change.
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      Aug 21 2013: I think more humility would lead to better everything. (IMHO).
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        Aug 22 2013: I agree Edward. If only it was easier to come by:)
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      Aug 21 2013: Thank you for your answer!!! I like it!
      I don't have much time at hand, so I can't watch the talk right now. But I will do it in a few days!

      Thanks everyone for discussing!
  • Aug 23 2013: Hello, Till Renger. In my case, voting helps me raise the sympathy. Because vote is the course confirming which party I advocate and who I will support as a politician. So It totally depends on me with responsibility. In korea, people vote a certain party they like and this preference is quite obvious. I hope people will have tendency to consider a candidate's quality, not only party's feature.
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    Aug 22 2013: This may be unhelpful but to what degree is sympathy toward a political party caused by genetically inherited personality traits. If I'm a highly motivated individual with an aversion to asking for help even when I really need it, would I ever vote Liberal. If I'm laid-back and enjoy working in groups and have no attachment to material belongings would I ever vote conservative.
    • Aug 23 2013: And if I'm a rational human being not given to narrow-minded, dogmatic worldviews, would I ever lump all of humanity into "liberal" or "conservative"?
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        Aug 26 2013: Ah here is my problem, I don't like asking for help but lack the motivation to achieve much on my own, so I'm never sure who to vote for. ☺
  • Aug 20 2013: My view is probably exactly opposite to the cognitive dissonance as you described. If you look at the election historey in the U. S. , you would see that the most important factor has been the dissatisfaction of the party in power at the time. As Ed has said, there are usually 2 or more parties which have reasonable popularity to get elected, but no absolute dominance. In the U. S., there has been a group of independents who often tipped the the balance of the election for the two major parties. In Europe, there could be one or more well organized minor parties which serves as the determining forces. However, the election outcomes in the U. S. have been following the pattern that the party in power was falling in disfavor after a number of years that they were rejected by the independents together with some "switch hitters" who "RECOGNIZED" THEIR "MISTAKES" and came out with a vengeance to "correct" their past mistakes.
    This also can be confirmed by the fact that the opinion rating of the the party in power was most likely dropped to lower than 50% representing the dissatisfaction of the voters at that time.
    The major problem is that the policy on either "the welfare for the poor" or the "economic growth" seemed always ended in the dilemma of like or dislike by two substantially equal proportion of voters or people. Take Europe, for instance, it is currently in the stage of reverting from the welfare for the "poor" to economic growth. Isn'i it?
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      Aug 21 2013: Thank you for your answer!
      The dissatisfaction of the party in power is a flaw of the system itself, I think.
      In a democatry it is always the same: The political parties make promises they can not keep. The people are angry and vote another party, but it is same thing again.
      In Germany, I think, it could be different, if it was not for the stupid people... ;)
      As you might have concluded, I am a leftie. And we have 2 left parties with very good ideas, but they only get 11-12% combined. It is horrible. 40% of the voters, so maybe 28% of all over 18, vote for the CDU. They say they are "christian", so all the old, religious people vote them. Every selection I hope it changes, but it does not.
      The welfare for the poor works quite good, compared to other countries, but I do not think that it was ever a primarily goal of the government. As you said, the economic "growth" is important. In the last years the wages dropped to export more. Which is pretty stupid, because the workers and their families suffer. And other countries, which import more than they export get economical problems.
      I think the politicians know all this, but they think it is okay.
      We could ask Edward, maybe he can understand their way of thinking.
  • Aug 17 2013: I think if people vote for a party line, voting does not add nor detract from their feelings for that party and the feelings against the other parties. I have seen in the US that people will cross party lines for individuals they like. The best example would be Ronald Reagan and the Reagan Democrats

    I am not sure about Germany but I would imagine that the rise of the right wing parties are due to economic issues, blaming it on others, and the disillusionment with the current system (i.e. told go to college and you will have a job for life even if the college degree has no meaningful value in industry.)
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      Aug 21 2013: Thank you for your answer!
      You said that there are people switching because of individuals. Maybe the influence of congnitive dissonance is small, when the parties are represented more by individuals than by content. Sounds good to me.
      You feel sympathy towards an indiviudual, but he/she does not run again, then it is very easy to cross party lines to vote for another person from the other party.
      So, is this favorable, or not?
      With the rise of the right wing, I totally agree with you! My question was not that well put. I should have asked about the consequences of cognitive dissonance. My thoughts just wandered til there... :D
      In the long run, what would be the consequences? How many left parties can one country bear? How many parties in total? Is there a better way without parties, but still democratic? Is there a better way, which is not really democratic but still legitimate?
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        Aug 21 2013: RE: "It is morning and the world still looks. . . " You have never met anyone who disagrees with your definitions of political Left and Right? You must be hanging with a mutual admiration society who all agree about precisely what to promote, and what to vilify. . . it sounds like a very strong party affiliation. What do you call yourselves and what do you all want? As for conversation surely you know that ad hominem attacks and sweeping generalizations are not a good way to establish a meaningful exchange of views where progress toward Truth is possible. Your profanity and animosity hampers the sort of dialog TED is meant to promote. Clean-up your act and engage in calm, impersonal discussion of this important matter. Perhaps I could then learn something from you. Give it a try, you'll like it!.
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          Aug 21 2013: I am sorry that my reply sounded rude.
          But I really never met someone like you. And I would have liked you to do the test, because it inspired me. I hadn't had much time. I apologize.

          Of course, my definitions of Left and Right are very different from the common definition, which sees Left and Right as opposites, which they are not. One could go with the common definition and can try to discuss about politics, but I think it would not lead to truth, if you think that Left and Right are opposites.
          From my point of view (and of politicalcompass), a political systems has an economic and a political part. The economic part describes how freely the capital can flow, how income and value are distributed, or should be distributed as to the ideologie. Of course these are complex matters, but I think you could find a position between capitalism and communism, which are definitions, and maybe we also have to discuss those.
          On the political part you can find a system between dictatorship and anarchy.

          Now it is important; what would you like to have? what is realistic? what should we achieve know to get closer to our wish?

          Some would say it is more important to direct the economy towards communism even accepting dictatorship. Some would say that freedom is more important.

          You see that this view on political systems is very good for discussion. It does not have these terms of Left and Right being opposites.

          What "we" call "ourselves"? Hm. For my ideals, well you could say ideology...
          I would call myself a cosmopolitan. Carl Sagans books and videos inspired me to think out of national borders. I like the movements "Anonymous" (V for Vendetta) and "Occupy Wallstreet". I am also a vegan, because I was inspired by Peter Singers book "Practical Ethics". (Preference utilitarianism) I also do not believe in free will. :D

          I hope this is a better basis for future discussions. :)
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        Aug 21 2013: RE: "I am sorry that my reply. . . " Apology accepted. Nice to meet you Till. I took the test (which has some obvious bias). My mark is almost perfectly dead center, touching all four quadrant lines. May I take a guess at the burr under your saddle? You think people are what they are politically because that is what their parents are? It just ain't so. When it comes to participating in the operation of one's nation (I can really only comment on the USA) there is an ongoing, rapid deterioration of citizen involvement. The apatheic, politically ignorant masses are NOT a reflection of their parents who were, and are, active registered voters who make their power count in the voting booth. Upcoming generations have lapsed into hopelessness regarding politics. The problem is not mindless people voting the way their parents vote. The problem is people not voting at all. Those who vote are more intelligent than you give them credit for. You imply that Conservatives are just parroting their role models. Not so. Conservatives want to RESTOTE and CONSERVE the nation we once had which was rigidly in compliance with our Constitution. Liberals want to continue moving away from that Constitution toward a different national identity. I suggest you are over-simplifying and generalizing. I know you are seriously underestimating those who disagree with your Cosmopolitan (?) politics.
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          Aug 21 2013: Nice to meet you too. Thank you for taking the test. I hope is was no waste of time, in your eyes. ;)
          I do not think that that the political views of the parents matters that much. I can observe this on my own person. My parents were always environmentalists, or so they thought. They still eat meat and consume diary products, which is not very ecological. They have been paying attention for local food, which I support. But my political views started to differ very early. So, in the end, of course I was positively influenced by my parents, but my brother and I also influenced our parents. My father and I discussed a lot, and by showing him documentaries and other interesting videos like political speeches, we both became more liberal.
          Because of that, I think that the internet has a greater influence than the parents.

          Some time ago I started to think, that democracy is not very suitable for large groups. In early Greek, democracy was not dealing with large numbers of people.
          There is also the problem of collective stupidity. As individuals humans are very intelligent, no question, but we have systems with lead to bad results.
          From my point of view there is a negative selection in parties. Those who are not following the instructions from above are removed, leaving those which weaker character.

          As for Conservatives... what is your definition? When I hear the word "Conservative" I think about free market and its horrible consequences, export of weapons to unstable countries, less welfare, the rich should get richer, the poor do not care, negative feelings about immigrants.
          What I think Conservatives think: "We have to free the market, so that the economy grows, so that the country is better off. We have to defend our traditions against multiculturalism, because they matter to us. We have to preserve our Constitution, because it is a good basis for our country."
          How close do I get? For me, it really is hard to comprehend, but I know everyone has their reasons.
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    Aug 16 2013: If your goal is to achieve concensus you are doomed. Our nation is spectacularly polarized. The prevailing numbers for recent polling on any issue is 47% Pro; 47% Con; and 6% Undecided. Those percentages are for those who actually vote. Most of the nation does not vote. The non-voters don't care and they don't know what the issues are. I don't see sympathy toward a particular party playing much of a role in the American process.
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        Aug 21 2013: Say what? The Left is thriving like a raging venereal disease. What do you mean "dead"? Please explain. Please.
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        Aug 21 2013: RE: "The party that is supposedly..." You are scaring me. What does the "real" Leftist doctrine look like If the devastatation that has taken place over the last 5 years in America is not it? I still don't know what you mean.
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        Aug 21 2013: Now, now. It is going to be all right. We are all your friends and no one wants to hurt you. You just rest a while and everything will look better in the morning, you'll see.