The author of a book on "voter dysfunction," Victoria Bassetti, wrote an op-ed for the New York Times ("Is America Man Enough To Vote?" Well, is it??) that implicates biology in our apparent aversion to voting--an activity that causes emotions:
Studies by the geneticist and social scientist James Fowler suggest that serotonin, the neurotransmitter connected to mood disorders and depression, is strongly implicated in voting behavior.
Often called the utility hormone, serotonin plays a role in our ability, among other things, to absorb disappointment (or worse), while maintaining social and emotional balance. In one of Mr. Fowler’s studies, people with the genetic code for efficient serotonin systems were more likely to vote — and more likely to return to the polls in subsequent elections, even if their candidate lost. Mr. Fowler hypothesizes that people with more durable serotonin systems can better handle the intensity of voting.
As absurd — or useful — as it may be to think about hormones and voting, studies like Mr. Fowler’s don’t really help us grapple with the complex issues facing our democracy. This year, more than ever, our quest to understand voter turnout strains against the unruly, partisan way we actually run elections.
Now, more than ever in all of history, we must confront the anxiety of making a choice and living with the consequences. Science can't really help us at the moment, but the future may provide an absolution, er, solution for this messy personal obligation:
Voters need every bit of emotional resilience they can find. Perhaps the pharmaceutical industry will come up with a little blue pill to make people voters. But until then, we may need to man up and face facts.
It's going to take awhile for this not even remotely menacing future to unfold, so we might as well do something in the meantime, right?