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W. H. Auden made it clear in his ‘Letter to Lord Byron’ and various prose writings on Byron that what counted for him was the poet’s ‘voice’: ‘I like your muse because she’s gay and witty / […] / I like her voice that does not make me jump’.1 ‘Voice’ was no small matter for Auden, since as he famously declared in ‘September 1, 1939’ it was all he had ‘[t]o undo the folded lie’.2 Addressing Byron in the form of a verse-letter allowed him to find a new voice for himself. Within the context of Letters from Iceland, the format permitted him to talk on public matters while adopting the tone of a private communication; and, in addition, it allowed him to develop a broader conception of poetry’s scope, by finding in it a place for the non-earnest – something, as he saw it, that had been lost along the way in the development of poetry since Byron’s time. It gave a new direction to his own writing, preparing the way for the longer poems of the second half of his career.
This article measures the social rewards and sanctions associated with voting. A series of survey experiments shows that information about whether a person votes directly affects how favorably that person is viewed. Importantly, the study also compares the rewards and sanctions associated with voting to other activities, including the decisions to recycle, volunteer and return one’s library books on time. It presents a behavioral test of the consequences of non-voting and finds that individuals are willing to take costly action in a dictator game to reward political participation. Finally, it shows that survey measures of social norms about voting are correlated with county-level voter turnout. The study adds to the growing literature documenting the important influence of social concerns on turnout and other political choices.
Do people believe the votes they cast are truly secret? Novel items added to a nationally representative survey show that 25 per cent of respondents report not believing their ballot choices are kept secret and over 70 per cent report sharing their vote choices with others. These findings suggest that standard models of candidate choice should account for the potential effects of doubts about ballot secrecy. Consistent with this view, regression analysis shows that social forces appear to have a greater effect on vote choices among people who doubt the formal secrecy of the ballot. This analysis supports the broader claim that the intended benefits of institutional rules may not be realized if people's perceptions of these rules differ from their formal characteristics.
Previous research on personality traits and political attitudes has largely focused on the direct relationships between traits and ideological self-placement. There are theoretical reasons, however, to suspect that the relationships between personality traits and political attitudes (1) vary across issue domains and (2) depend on contextual factors that affect the meaning of political stimuli. In this study, we provide an explicit theoretical framework for formulating hypotheses about these differential effects. We then leverage the power of an unusually large national survey of registered voters to examine how the relationships between Big Five personality traits and political attitudes differ across issue domains and social contexts (as defined by racial groups). We confirm some important previous findings regarding personality and political ideology, find clear evidence that Big Five traits affect economic and social attitudes differently, show that the effect of Big Five traits is often as large as that of education or income in predicting ideology, and demonstrate that the relationships between Big Five traits and ideology vary substantially between white and black respondents.