Do You Keep Your Vote to Yourself?

Yesterday I was talking to somebody about voting. She asked, and I told her (as I told you) for whom I planned to vote.

She mentioned that her parents always kept their voting decisions a secret, possibly even from each other. I have a vague memory of my parents not discussing who they voted for either. Am I making this up, or was there a prevailing opinion in their generation that you didn’t disclose for whom you cast your ballot?

The essence of this notion seems to be (or have been) “your vote is nobody’s business but your own”. That’s true, and I suppose it was designed, in a Miss Manners kind of way, to avoid heated conflict in otherwise civil conversation. However, times and social norms change.

Plus, if you care about politics and your choice, I’d imagine that you’d want to try to convince other people of your position. And how can you do that without disclosing who you’re planning to support?

Do you discuss who you’re voting for among your family and friends? If not, why not?


  1. Some yes, some no. I always knew who my grandmother & mother voted for, I’m not sure who my father or step-father vote for.

    I think it depends if it’s the type of person I’d be willing to discuss politics with, and whether or not I’m willing to argue with them about it. For example, while he occasionally surprises me with his opinions, I generally disagree with my father on a lot, so … it’s better if we just keep that to ourselves, as we can both be opinionated & stubborn and our relationship is tenuous enough as it is.

    On the other hand, I agree with my mother on most political topics, so discussing with her is no problem — and when we DO disagree, it’s generally a rousing good fight, instead of a relationship-damaging one.

    I definitely don’t keep it a secret, though. For example, I’ll be voting for Libby Davies (NDP) and I’m ecstatic to be able to do so.

  2. My parents felt it was impolite to ask someone who they voted for, and they coyly kept it ‘secret’ though it was easy to see who they favoured. I think they felt it was a lot like asking someone what they make a year.

  3. You are right even my parents did not discuss who they voted or who they were going to vote for.

    I wouldn’t try and rally people to vote with me, that’s just not personality. But I would probably tell someone if they asked. At the same time, I wouldn’t want my political opinions to make people think differently of me. Like ohhh she’s voting for __________. What’s wrong with her?

  4. I think previous generations had many things they did not discuss, and which we’re more comfortable sharing now — both with family and with others. Voting preferences are one of them, along with stuff like cancer, sexual preference, and so on.

    Depression and other mental illnesses are emerging as topics for discussion. Many of us also aren’t shy about discussing our incomes.

    But I also agree with Donna that, especially within families, whether you discuss politics at all (or religion, or other testy subjects) depends on your relationship with a particular individual.

  5. My parents definitely taught us that a person’s vote is their own private business, and it is rude to ask about it. They chose not to disclose who they voted for. This is actually the first year I’ve ever discussed politics and voting with my parents. I’m not surprised that my Dad is leaning conservative, although I am disappointed somewhat, but I was pleasantly surprised that my mother’s actually going to vote Green this time. She’s so NOT the sort of person I’d expect to vote Green.

    Maybe they kept it a secret until they figured I was old enough to discuss it without being all idealistic on them?

  6. I usually tend to be open regarding who I am voting for, however, since moving to BC I find myself voting in the minority some of the time and when people find out who I am voting for they get that “Ohh, so you DON’T care about social issues” look in their eye, and I can feel them biting their tongues. Though most who’ve presented these symptoms manage to bite their tongues, it does worry me that they are internally judging me based on a difference in political opinion. I am considering keeping my vote in the vault from now on.

  7. Its the essence of the secret ballot. If everbody reveals how they voted except you then everybody will know how you voted. Therefore to keep a ballot secret nobody should reveal how they voted.

    This was an important aspect of union voting in the UK (and possibly elsewhere) where union members who voted against a strike could end up being ostracized by fellow union members. This is why the conservative government made secret ballots mandatory for strike votes in the 80’s.

    Its not so relevant in public elections where first past the post is the counting method, but here in Ireland where we use proportional representation politicians have been elected on the basis of a few hundred votes.

    In those cases the question “who did you vote for?” can become highly loaded.

  8. Secret ballot is a nice theory. This morning, the way the lady sitting at the table was folding the ballots, I saw precisely who the lady before me voted for before she put her ballot in the box (I was standing at the regulatory distance behind), and I guess my next-door neighbor saw the same for me. (Not that I care in this particular instance, but it felt really, really wrong!)

  9. The next time I read a weblog, I hope that it doesnt disappoint me as significantly as this one. I mean, I know it was my choice to read, but I in fact thought youd have something interesting to say. All I hear is really a bunch of whining about something which you could fix in case you werent too busy searching for attention.

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