Make Sure Your Vote Really Counts
Don’t let regret guide your decision
Have you ever “regretted” your choice? Think about it.
Regret is a fundamental element of decision-making. After all, life is full of choices, and many of them are uncertain ones – the one who got away, the job you didn’t take, the money you didn’t save, the fight you wish you hadn’t had – there’s always going to be something that you’d wish you’d done differently, and, therefore, regretted.
For many, this regret can be debilitating, as they tell themselves, “I never seem to make the right decisions” or “I always choose the wrong thing for me.” For these folks, it’s as if they are always looking in the rear-view mirror at what they have left behind.
Psychologists have long wondered about the value of regret – it seems like it just makes us feel worse. But regret, on its own, is not altogether bad. In fact, it can spur us to action. It can help us make better decisions in the future. It helps explain why things happened and what we could have done differently to avoid them.
But when we are in that moment of making a decision, we all tend to believe – and sometimes even insist – that we know exactly what we’re doing. That certainly can be said when it comes to the act of voting when we ignore the “red flags,” even though our “gut” is telling us something isn’t quite right about a candidate – and despite everything looking hunky-dory on the outside.
This is more common than we may have imagined. Studies have shown about 28% of voters (on average) regret voting for whom they voted. This finding wasn’t as a result of a single study or two, or even a couple of election cycles, but from research in five different countries after 11 regional and national elections.
This research revealed that those who experience the strongest feelings of voter regret are those who have been either misinformed, or didn’t vote their “gut” feeling, in the first place. Obviously, 28% of the electorate, regretting their vote (basically, getting it wrong) would have a significant influence on whether or not the best-qualified candidates are being elected into office.
But aren’t there an equal number of “regretful” voters for each candidate, you might ask? Wouldn’t they just cancel one another out? For example, 28% of voters for candidate “A” will regret voting for candidate “A,” and this will be offset by 28% of voters for candidate “B” who regretted voting for candidate “B.” So, isn’t it a non-issue?
No, turns out it’s a big issue. That’s because the research shows it’s the most well-funded political candidates who garner a disproportionate share of the voters who end up regretting whom they voted for, and just because they’re well-funded doesn’t mean they’re wellqualified.
So maybe this better explains why, year after year, so many well-funded, but often unqualified, unprepared and unremarkable so-called “leaders” are elected to public office.
Could it be because these betterfunded candidates literally “own” the demographic of voters that are the least informed – and that would be most likely to look past the “red flags” of a particular candidate running for office?
Perhaps. But the trouble is that none of us live on an island, and the least informed voters aren’t the only ones regretting their votes. We all end up living with the regret of the least informed among us, as our communities crumble, mired in debt, in the meantime.
You see, the 28% of voters every election cycle who regret the candidate for whom they voted is very significant – because we are only as strong as our weakest link. It’s incumbent upon all of us to study the candidates and understand what’s at stake before we regret not doing so.
As early voting begins this month, on Sept. 28, we must not reduce our most important civic duty to merely following the herd over the cliff. We’ve done that for far too long, and regrets are just about all we have to show for it.
Louis R. Avallone is a Shreveport businessman, attorney and author of “Bright Spots, Big Country, What Makes America Great.” He is also a former aide to U.S. Representative Jim McCrery and editor of The Caddo Republican. His columns have appeared regularly in The Forum since 2007. Follow him on Facebook, on Twitter @louisravallone or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org, and on American Ground Radio at 101.7FM and 710 AM, weeknights from 6 - 7 p.m., and streaming live on keelnews.com.