Anyone But Trump: Incentives in the Presidential Election

Cydney Roy

Here is a question: Who is the best presidential candidate for all of America? Is it the candidate that promises to lower taxes? The candidate that promises to work towards a free college education? The candidate that promises to build a great, giant wall? The answer depends on who you ask. Each person in the United States has different wants and needs; therefore, each person will vote for the candidate whom they believe can give them the most of what they want. An American’s particular incentive to vote is what, in this case, differentiates each person’s choice for presidential candidate from the next.

In his book Naked Economics: Undressing the Dismal Science, Charles Wheelan comments that “people seek to make themselves better off, however they may define that.”(1) This is why incentives are important in economics- they give insight as to how each person’s desire make themselves better off can determine so many things. Even in terms of the election, incentives play a much larger role than the simple example of choosing which candidate to vote for. In fact, the candidates themselves have incentives that are based off of the incentives of the voters. If a large group of voters say they want a president that will make the environment a priority, a candidate would of course come out and say, “Yes, of course! America needs to be concerned with the environment its well being!”, their incentive being gaining potential voters. Whether this particular candidate actually has a real plan or intent of doing something to help the environment or not, the truth of the matter is that their only real concern is the extra votes. As says Wheelan on page 34 of Naked Economics, “Self-interest makes the world go round.” (2)

If Americans didn’t see at least some type of benefit for themselves in voting, the likeliness that even half of the current voters would still be willing to go through the process is very slim. For example, a very weird incentive specific to voters of the current election is to simply lessen Donald Trump’s chances of becoming president. Political t-shirts that literally say “idk not trump tho 2016” have been circulating online and have become very popular amongst voters. When writing an article on voting strategies for the election, one economic columnist even joked that strategy number one is, so to speak, “Anyone but Trump: It doesn’t matter, as long as you vote against Trump.” (3) The hatred towards Donald Trump is so prevalent that it motivates people to go out specifically not to vote for him.

The interesting twist on this, however, is that there is actually a large group of people in America who support Trump despite the many reasons one shouldn’t (racism, sexism, etc.). Although, considering the wide variety of different wants and needs in the United States and the fact that people will most often act in their own self interest, is it really all that surprising that many people out there will still vote for him because he seemingly offers what they want? Not really. An incentive is an incentive, and people will act accordingly to what they believe benefits them the most.

  1. Wheelan, Charles J. Naked Economics: Undressing the Dismal Science. New York: Norton, 2010
  2. Wheelan, Charles J. Naked Economics: Undressing the Dismal Science. New York: Norton, 2010
  3. “The ‘Anyone But Trump’ Strategy of Voting.” Bloomberg.com. Accessed June 15, 2016. https://www.bloomberg.com/view/articles/2016-03-04/the-anyone-but-trump-strategy-of-voting
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