There are roughly two categories of people involved in any electoral process. In the first category we have the very few that actively seek office and each one works to get as much vote as he or she can get; these are the candidates. By the way, the word candidate comes from candidatus (in Latin dressed in white) because in ancient Rome, those seeking office were dressed in white togas. The second category is made of the very many who have to vote for the very few in the first category, they are the voters and each voter has only one vote to manage.
By the end of any election, candidates will become either winners or losers. Whatever they become by virtue of their election results, all candidates have one thing in common: they are and remain rational because they are always clear about and conscious of their roles and position, they never forget what they want and they work actively to get it.
The same cannot be said of voters; who during the electoral process present themselves under two different kind of political profiles: the rational and the irrational voters. Studying and understanding the political profile of irrational voters is one of the most fascinating tasks of successful of political scientists and politicians.
A constant trait in the profile of an irrational voter is her mindset towards that one vote she manages. Rarely, does an irrational voter convincingly consider her vote an important and powerful tool to shape her world by influencing the choice of policy and policy makers around her or at least make her political wishes known. Interestingly, the term “vote” derives from votum another Latin word used to express ones wish or will. She tends to think “those into politics” are different from her and that they will understand and take care of things. On voting day, she will vote if the process is straightforward and the people around her are willing to vote too, if any of these conditions is not met, then she tends to have something better to do than to go out to vote.
Before voting day, an irrational voter does not take time to find out what the candidates and their party stand for. Whilst she might have in mind a set of issues, she deems important and necessary for the country, she does not take time to investigate which party or candidate have the best solutions to her needs. She will for many reasons in the world, get to Election Day without ever reading, discussing let alone analysing the manifestos of contending parties and candidates. If she sees candidates on TV or hears them on the radio, she tends to be more fascinated by their humanity than the content of their programme.
In countries, like Nigeria, where ethnicity and lately religion play important roles in party politics, an irrational voter is easily attracted to vote for a candidate of her same ethnic group and vote against a candidate of different ethnic group even if she knows that the candidate from her own ethnic group might be less competent. The attraction in such case is based on and justified by the need for representation rather than competence to serve. Even in such cases, our irrational voter does not bother to check the past of her chosen candidates nor does she evaluate if her choice of placing representation over competence has paid her or any other community in the past.
In countries, where citizens are victims of acidic poverty (to use the words of a virtual villager) and where politicians dole out money and gifts as part of their campaign strategy, an irrational voter readily takes these gifts in return for votes. She does not bother to remember that nobody pays you to be at your service and that those politicians that give you their money today are investing and will be looking for ways to recoup and even make profit tomorrow. Lest we forget, given the chance, every politician in the world will buy votes; they do not do it in other parts of the world simply because there are clear tough sanctions against such temptations.
It is worth mentioning here that being politically irrational does not mean one is automatically irrational in life. The same people who behave irrationally in politics by not carrying out necessary checks and forgetting to consider their own interest in the long term and above all by wasting the value of their votes during elections can actually be very savvy and even streetwise people when it comes to other things in life. They are not some eccentric minorities amongst us, they actually constitute majority of voters. Just to have some fun, we can think of our own profile and then the profile of the people we know and try to find out how many of us fit into the profile of irrational voters.