Right to vote worth about $1 million

New York University survey finds 1,500 students would forfeit vote for greenbacks

Tuesday, April 7th, 2009

For $1 million, would you give up your right to vote?

In a survey by a New York University journalism class, about half of the 3,000 undergraduate students polled would forfeit their right to vote in all American elections for an instant $1 million.

The poll also found 20 per cent of respondents would give up their vote in the next federal election for an iPod touch, and 66 per cent would exchange their right to vote in the next presidential election for one year’s paid tuition at NYU.

Sixty per cent of the students willing to exchange their next federal vote for tuition were from upper middle or high-income brackets.

But the study also found a solid majority, 90 percent, of those willing to sell their votes believed voting was “very important” or “somewhat important.”

Seventy per cent said they believe one vote can make a difference, which included 70 per cent of students who would give up their vote for free tuition.

Laura Stephenson, an assistant professor of political science, attributed the discrepancy to a willingness to pass the responsibility to vote to others.

“Students think voting is important, but they know that lots of other people will be voting too,” Stephenson said.

Stephenson also noted voter turnout is the lowest among young voters.

“Students are the ones who turn out the least, and there is a lot of apathy, and a lot of students don’t seem to be tied into the political process.”

Zach Churchill, national director of the Canadian Alliance of Student Associations, did not believe the study findings suggested students are apolitical.

“I think there’s a misconception that ... youth are not involved in the political process. When you look at our generation of students, it is this generation that is more heavily involved in activism, more heavily involved in volunteering ... We are a very politically-charged generation.”

The million dollars would not be enough to garner the vote of Rob Jackman, a first-year HBA student.

“I think it [violates] all the fundamental reasons why my grandfather came to Canada … It would be disrespectful.”

Second-year management and organizational studies student Mo Abdelmalek thought the offer was appealing enough to accept.

“It sounds pretty sweet ... [voting is] maybe not that important if you have an incentive.”

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