That was the view of 2nd-year PhD student Douglas VanDerwerken up until this Presidential election. He abstained on the basis of the lack of return on investment for spending the time to vote when it really cannot make a difference. VanDerwerken lays it all out for statistics magazine Significance in an article for their current (October) issue.* According to his reckoning, there is less than one chance in a million (4.5×10^-7 to be precise) of any person’s vote having an impact. This would be a situation where the voter lives in a swing State and the election comes to a dead heat.
Fortunately (in my opinion—being one who views it as a civic duty) VanDerwerken had an epiphany based on moral reasons, so he shall vote. Thank goodness!
“If you think about it, voting in a large national election – such as the US Presidential election – is a supremely irrational act, because the probability that your vote will make a difference in the outcome is infinitesimally small.”
- Satoshi Kanazawa, rational choice theorist**
* “The next President: Will your vote decide it”
**See Kanazawa’s three-part series on “Why Do People Vote” for his blog “The Scientific Fundamentalist” hosted by Psychology Today. Start with Part 1 posted here and continue on to the end for the answer.