How Americans Value the Vote, and What They'd Give It Up For
"Everything has a price. It's just what you're willing to pay for it," penned the author Anne Bishop.
Assuming you agree with this statement, what would you charge to sell your vote for America's next president or for an issue you feel passionately about?
Would $2 be enough, or would it take a hefty six figures to purchase your vote? What about relinquishing the ultimate pleasure? Would you give up sex for life to vote for a particular candidate?
Before we get into these and other hypotheticals, let's examine the legal and practical side of the issue. What is the legal definition of "vote buying or selling?"
A federal law passed in 1973 states in part: "Any reward given to a person for voting in a particular way or for not voting can be called vote buying." It also occurs when someone gives false information or conspires with others to submit a false or misleading registration form or when an individual accepts some type of payment to vote a certain way.
We also need to point out there are numerous other laws at the federal, state, and local levels that prohibit individuals from selling their vote for any form of consideration, whether it be cash, a $3 bottle of vodka, or a future favor. It's also illegal for an individual to cast more than one vote in the same election.
The issue of voter fraud, either through buying or selling votes or committing an illegal act in the process of voting, is not without controversy. Some conservative organizations and lawmakers claim voter fraud is a problem worthy of additional legislation, while some liberal organizations believe claims and cases of rampant fraud or illegal voting activities are highly overblown.
Notwithstanding the standard disclosure of "please don't try this at home," we strongly encourage you not to violate any law, no matter how great the payoff might seem.
But we did think it would be fun to see exactly how much it would take for some to hypothetically sell one of the most valued privileges in America. We surveyed 975 people to see what their bottom price would be for a vote, and their responses were surprising, to say the very least.
Let's open this hypothetical auction house and begin the bidding process for votes.
Blues Want Lots of Green to Vote Red
Slightly less than a quarter of those surveyed – 23.5%, to be exact – would sell their vote if the price was right. Included are all three major party affiliations, Republicans, Democrats, and Independents, and their responses were close.
Staying true to their Independent label, this group of middle-of-the-road folks reported it would only take $1,000 to sell their vote. If you're looking to buy a Republican vote, however, the price doubles to $2,000. A Democrat's vote is even higher, at $3,750.
Since the United States became an independent nation in 1776, a citizen's right to vote has been emphasized and protected. But, is voting a right or a privilege? It's a question we don't have time to fully dive into here.
On one hand, voting rights are granted by our Constitution, yet they're also considered a privilege because they come with stipulations like citizenship, age, location, and even background, since most convicted felons are stripped of the right to vote. Still, others say it's also an American duty.
Paying the Elephant in the Room
Let's state the obvious first: Most Republicans wouldn't require any cash to support some of their most well-known politicos.
Over 75% of Republicans say they would vote for President Donald Trump or Vice President Mike Pence for free. Moreover, just over 60% would cast a ballot for Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, R-Wis., without taking a single buck.
Senator Ted Cruz, R-Texas, didn't quite make the $0 club. The median price Republicans placed on voting for the Lone Star lawmaker was as hefty $1. Being worth a single one-dollar bill may not sound like a great deal, but in this case, the lower the value the better you are perceived by your own party.
Now let's see what Republicans, often seen as the party of the wealthy, would need to vote for some famous liberal Democrats or other "celebrity types." Kanye West is one of the most successful rappers in modern history and has never shied away from mentioning social and political themes in his songs (or Twitter posts).
In "Never Let Me Down," West references his grandfather's arrest for attempting to sit at a whites-only counter in Chicago. In "Jesus Walks," he raps about police brutality and aggressively spoke out in favor of LGBT rights in an MTV interview.
West may have donated to and posed for selfies with Hillary Clinton in 2015, but he announced from stage in November 2016 that, if he had voted, it would have been for Donald Trump. Nonetheless, his delayed endorsement seemingly doesn't change the fact it would take a whopping $12,500, the most of anyone in our survey, for Republicans to vote for the talented rapper. West came under fire for his inflammatory remarks regarding slavery after our survey was complete, so the price to vote for him could be higher today.
Television mega-star Oprah Winfrey, who recently flirted with the idea of running for president in 2020, is another celebrity who would require five-figures ($10,000) to get a Republican vote.
Winfrey considers herself "apolitical," saying she has supported both Republicans and Democrats. However, her politics seen to lean mainly toward issues championed by Democrats such as LGBT rights, gun control, and opposition to the Iraq War. On the other hand, the billionaire executive has supported some GOP fiscal issues by opposing the estate tax.
What It Costs to Feed the Donkey
With Republicans controlling both the White House and Congress, no one can argue that Democrats aren't passionate about their issues. Let's just say it's going to take plenty of expensive hay for many Democrats to wear a "Make America Great Again" cap.
We'll start with the freebies here too. Many Democrats would vote for former Vice President Joe Biden, former Secretary of State John Kerry, Sen. Warren, D-Mass., Sen. Sanders, D-Vt., and Gov. Brown for nothing.
Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J., has made a name for himself since he arrived in Washington two years ago. However, unlike Cruz, Booker's fellow Democrats upped the ante to at least three cheeseburgers from the dollar menu to pull the lever for him.
As for Oprah, she may support many issues close to the heart of Democrats, but her opposition for the estate tax seemingly comes with a $50 fine because that's what most Democrats want to endorse the queen of daytime talk shows.
Sens. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., and Ben Sasse, R-Neb., considered "moderates" by most political standards, would each command a $2,000 price tag to gain Democratic support. That's much higher than the respective $225 and $250 Republicans wanted to vote for them.
For other celebrities who flirt in and around politics, let's say you can't find Democratic support for them for the price of something in the bargain bin at Walmart.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions has ruffled Democrat-leaning voters by stating his determined opposition to relaxing federal marijuana laws and aligning himself with Trump on building a wall on the Mexico-U.S. border. In doing so, Democrats surveyed said it would take a median $10,000 to support the former Alabama senator.
Getting back to Kanye West, our survey showed liberal voters would require a hefty $20,000 to vote for the famous rapper. This puts him in the same class as Sen. Cruz, Speaker Ryan, and Trump's Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos.
And now for President Trump. Would it shock you to learn his popularity among Democrats is … a little low? A recent Gallup Poll showed that only 9% of Democrats approve of the job Trump is doing. This is a big difference from the 89% of Republicans showing approval. This single-digit percentage also means it would take a hefty $100,000 to support the New York real estate magnate.
Votes for Vice President Mike Pence command only half the amount of his superior, or $50,000.
The Powerful Pull of Sex and Politics
If you had to use just one word to describe the feelings produced by sex and politics, it might be "powerful."
Both are known to induce powerful, intense emotions, and both can be used to wield power. Of course, there is no shortage of politicians who've been seduced and wound up in hot water over their sexual escapades. Just ask former and current Presidents Clinton and Trump.
For voters who enjoy both, what would happen if they were forced to choose one or the other? Let's put it this way: What would it take for a voter to give up sex forever in exchange for their right to vote?
One-quarter of those surveyed would give up sex forever before giving up their right to vote. Democrats were about 4% more willing to give up sex than Republicans.
Wait a minute … are you scratching your head while you're letting those numbers register with you? Keep in mind that approximately 75% of respondents would choose sex over voting.
Speaking of the awkward, ahem, positions politicians find themselves in where sex is involved, a new study suggests your political ideology can reveal your sexual position preferences.
Those who lean toward the conservative side tend to favor more "traditional" positions with fewer partners, while those tilting toward the liberal side prefer more partners and like to experiment with more positions. The study also revealed conservatives were more satisfied with their sex lives.
The Quid Pro Quo of Voting
We've talked about selling votes for money, but is there anything you would accept or trade in exchange for your right to vote?
Nearly half of voters we surveyed said they wouldn't take any of the trades above to give up their voting privileges. But, overall, women were slightly less likely than men to take any of these trades. This could be due in part to the fact that women haven't had the right to vote for even 100 years in the United States – in 1920, the 19th Amendment extended voting rights to women.
Since the 1980s, women have consistently had higher rates of voter turnout in presidential elections than men. And more recently, black female voters have been particularly influential in determining the winners in elections nationwide – even choosing Democratic candidates in traditionally Republican districts. Women are harnessing the power of their vote, and this momentum could further motivate them to continue to show up to the polls.
There were also some interesting differences between the generations when it came to vote trade-offs. Millennials, soon to be the nation's largest voting bloc, were more open to the concept of trading their votes when it came to debt forgiveness. According to our survey data, one-third would give up voting forever if their mortgage debt was wiped out, and slightly over 31% would give up voting to erase student debt.
Voting Against a Joint and for a Gun
Do you remember the first sentence in this article? Instead of scrolling back to the beginning, here's a reminder:
"‘Everything has a price. It's just what you're willing to pay for it,' penned the author Anne Bishop." So, what price would it take to vote against the issue you are most passionate about?
We can't cover every issue, and there are plenty of important ones that didn't make our survey, but we'll tackle a few of the best-known ones in this section.
The recent rash of school shootings has lifted the issue of gun control to the top of the news cycle. Immediately following these types of tragedies, there is often increased support for new gun control legislation, but shortly after the school shooting in Parkland, Florida, polls showed the opposite as support faded again. Opinions on this controversial issue are frequently in flux for the American people.
Our survey results showed people who want to see some form of gun control would need about $10,000 to vote against their position. On the other side of the table, it would only take $500 for someone who opposed gun control to sell their vote. In fact, it was the lowest price in our survey.
A couple of other hot-button issues that caught our eye were equal treatment and pay for all genders and government-supported health care. Each of these controversial issues would command a rate of $10,000 for those on either side of the fence to change or sell their vote.
What about marijuana legalization? Eight states have legalized the use of recreational cannabis, while more than 30 states have approved some form of medical use. Interestingly, marijuana is still illegal under federal law and remains a Schedule I controlled substance.
One reason Attorney General Jeff Sessions is unpopular in certain circles is that he's threatened to crack down on states that have voted to approve the drug for recreational use. However, President Trump has called off the government's top attorney for the foreseeable future.
Election Night Wrapup
Hypothetically, did you determine how much it would cost to purchase your vote and for what price you would command?
Many important issues are facing our country, and they impact different generations and demographic groups in unique ways. Our goal with this survey was to get an idea of how passionate our participants were on some critical issues and how they felt about some of the country's more notable politicians, celebrities, and business leaders.
Don't forget: Depending on individual state laws, vote buying and selling can be illegal on many levels. So to stay on the right side of the law, please don't get into any trouble by attempting to sell yours, no matter how much it might improve your financial situation.
We surveyed 975 Americans using Amazon's Mechanical Turk. 42.6% identified as Democrats, 26.6% were Independents, 23.5% were Republicans, and 2.9% were Libertarians. 4.4% identified with another political ideology or none at all. 46.7% were female, and 51.2% were male. Approximately 2% were nonbinary. Participants ranged in age from 18 to 74 with a mean of 37.2 and a standard deviation of 12.3
We weighted the data to the 2016 U.S. census for state, gender, age, and political affiliation, but we did not weight median price data.
To determine participants' viewpoints on the social issues highlighted in this study, we asked them to identify where they stood regarding issues on a five-point scale: 1 = completely against, 2 = against in most situations, 3 = neither support nor stand against, 4 = support in most situations, and 5 = completely support. Responses of 1 and 2 and 4 and 5 were grouped, and neutral responses of 3 were not included in the visualizations.
Participants were asked to state the prices at which they'd vote for or against different issues. They were instructed to enter "0" if they'd realistically vote for a certain position without any incentives. Otherwise, they were asked to enter an amount of $1 or more. The same instructions were given when participants were asked to state what price they'd sell their vote for hypothetical presidential candidates.
We excluded outliers from the price data that were greater than three times the standard deviation plus the mean. After this exclusion, some participants' prices for their votes were still well beyond realistic amounts of money. In order to find a limit on what constituted a realistic price for a vote, we calculated the average cost of the Republican and Democratic campaigns from the 2012 and 2016 presidential general elections ($1.1 billion), adjusted to 2016 prices. Prices above $1.1 billion were not included in the median, but values of zero were included.
The data we are presenting rely on self-report. There are many issues with self-reported data. These issues include, but are not limited to: selective memory, telescoping, attribution, and exaggeration.
No statistical testing was performed, so the claims listed above are based on means alone. As such, this content is purely exploratory and hypothetical, and future research should approach this topic in a more rigorous way. CreditLoan and its affiliates do not support the illegal practice of vote buying or selling.
Fair Use Statement
Are you interested in passing along this information or using it as a source for noncommercial purposes? If so, we won't charge you a penny or even ask you to trade your vote. All we request is you provide a link back to the article and give credit where it is due.