Rationality of Vote Consideration: An Evidence from Experimental Study in University of Indonesia

Being a lawful and responsible citizen entails us fulfilling our democratic duties and choosing our elected officials and leaders. In accordance to that principle, as well as the recent public conversation surrounding the elections, we at KANOPI FEB UI decided to conduct some research to uncover the voting patterns of students at Universitas Indonesia and find which criterions are important to them in choosing their leaders.

            In this particular research, our method is rather experimental. The context of ‘elected leader’ we are using here is the context of the head of each individual bureau and division in KANOPI FEB UI. We asked the respondents to cast a vote for four separate positions, namely for the Head of Research Division, Head of Studies Division, Head of Human Resources Development Division, and Head of External Bureau. Similar to any common elections, respondents are firstly given several information about each candidates. Those information includes a portrait of each candidates, their vision and mission, previous education, religion, and achievements. We asked the respondents which candidates they would vote for, for every bureau and division, and ask them at the very end of the survey, their reasoning.

            One of our largest primary research to-date, this research included every faculty from Universitas Indonesia, totalling 195 people. This is dispersed from 13 faculties: Fakultas Kedokteran (Faculty of Medicine), Fakultas Kedokteran Gigi (Faculty of Dentistry), Fakultas Kesehatan Masyarakat (Faculty of Public Health), Fakultas Ilmu Keperawatan (Faculty of Nursing), Fakultas Farmasi (Faculty of Pharmacy), Fakultas Matematika dan IPA (Faculty of Math & Natural Sciences), Fakultas Teknik (Faculty of Engineering), Fakultas Ilmu Komputer (Faculty of Computer Science), Fakultas Ilmu Budaya (Faculty of Humanities), Fakultas Hukum (Faculty of Law), Fakultas Ilmu Sosial dan Politik (Faculty of Social & Political Sciences), Fakultas Psikologi (Faculty of Pscyhology), as well as Fakultas Ilmu Administrasi (Faculty o Administration), with 15 respondents from each faculty. In terms of the batch, 49% of respondents are batch 2016, 23% are batch 2015, 13% are batch 2014, 9% are batch 2013, 3% are batch 2012, and another 3% are batch 2011. From those numbers, a total of 120 are females (62%), and 75 males (38%). We also looked at religion, since it is an important factor in our analysis later on, whereby 79% of respondents are Muslim, 10% are Christians, 5% are Buddhist, 4% are Catholics, 1% are Hindus, and another 1% opted for other religions.

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            In voting for an elected official or a leader, there must be several considerations that every rational person makes. In this case, respondents mostly claim to consider vision and mission of candidates, with 84% of respondents making that claim, followed by achievements, whereby 45% of respondents made that claim. Other selection criteria such as appearance holds 13%, gender holds 10%, and previous education holds 7%. The remaining 4% represents the criteria of religion and the last 2% represents other criteria such as more concrete goals, target of work, and probability of the realization of goals. Those results are simply what the respondents claim, but deeper and less apparent voting patterns can be seen and analysed based on the background data we have gathered on the respondents. Would those results actually be consistent with their claims on voting criteria?

            In designing our research and setting the candidates, we have meticulously set several conditions in order to uncover certain hidden patterns. In the first simulation, respondents are faced with the candidates for Head of External Bureau, two people who have similar qualifications and backgrounds, differing only in their gender. Both candiates are Muslim, graduated from a public high school, have achievements in the arts and extracurricular, and overall have similar vision and mission. The result of this election shows that female voters tend to vote for the female candidate whereas male voters tend to vote for the male candidate. Overall, 53% of respondents voted for the candidate with the same gender of them, given the similar backgrounds and other factors. This pattern represents an inconsistency in the claims of voting criteria of the respondents, whereby only 12.5% of females and 12% of males saw gender as an important factor in making their choice. In this election, 90.67% of male respondents and 76.67% of female respondents justified their choice by the vision and mission, whereas 40% of females and 41.33% justified their choice based on the achievement. An interesting note is that for males, 6.67% of them claim that religion become a choosing factor whereas only 0.83% of females claim so.

            In the choice of the Head of Human Resources Development, respondents are faced with two candidates with the same qualifications and background with the exception of religion, where one is from a miniority religion and the other from a majority religion. Both candiates are male, graduated from a public high school, have one achievement, and overall have similar vision and mission. Interestingly, the minority religion candidate won the votes from both respondents of the majority and minority religion. Respondents from the majority religion claimed that vision and mission are the key determinant in their choice, with 82.5% of respondents claiming so, following with 38.71% of them who claim achievement to be a choosing factor. Only 5.16% of respondents in the majority religion group choose based on the religion. With that said, the actual results showed that 62% of those respondents from the majority religion group choose candidate from different reigion, the candidate from the minority religion. The actual results and their claims are thus consistent. Looking at respondents from the minority religion, 85% of them put utmost importance in vision and mission and 42,5% of them in achievement, whereas religion, gender, appearance and other criteria does not become a determining factor at all with 0% of the respondents claiming to choose based on any of those criteria.

            In the third election for the head of the Studies Division, three candidates are present, namely candidates A, B, and C. Candidate A and B are from a majority religion. Candidate A is a male with the lowest achievement level where candidate B is female with medium achievement level. Candidate C is a male from minority religion with highest achievement level. The candiates graduated from a public high school and overall have similar vision and mission. In this study, respondents with minority religion were excluded and we focus on respondent from majority religion. We find that the female candidate from the majority religion with medium achievement level (Candidate B) won the votes within voters from the majority religion, followed by candidate C and A. In those group, 81.29% of respondents claim to choose based on vision and mission, whereas 52.26% of them claim to choose based on achievement. Appearance interestingly became quite a present criteria, with 17.42% of respondents claiming to choose based on that. 12.9% of respondents choose based on gender, whereas religion is only claimed to be a factor by 4.52% of respondents. These preference survey is actually inconsistent with the results, since 63.23% of those respondents are proven to choose the candidate from the majority religion, despite the candidate from the minority religion having higher achievements. Out of that percentage, 49.68% choose the female candidate with the higher achievements compared to the 13.55% who choose the male candidate with lesser achievements. This is inconsistent with certain beliefs that leaders should be male.

Table 1. Characteristic of Candidates

Candidates Characteristic
Gender Religion Achievement
A Male Major Lowest
B Female Major Medium
C Male Minor Highest

            In the last study, respondents are asked to choose the candidate for the Research Division, whereby we also have three candidates, namely candidates A, B, and C. Candidate A is a male from the minority religion with the lowest achievement out of the three. Candidate B is a female from a minority religion and has the medium achievements. The last candidate, candidate C, is a male from a majority religion with highest level achievements. The candiates graduated from a public high school and overall have similar vision and mission. In this study, respondents from majority religion were excluded and we put the magnifying lens upon the respondents from the minority religion. The result of this election shows that the female candidate from the minority religion (Candidate B) won the votes within voters from the minority religion, followed by candidate C and A. 77.5% of those respondents claim that vision and mission is the key determinant in choosing the candidates, followed by 47.5% of respondents choosing based on achievement. 12.5% choose based on previous education and 5% based on gender. There are no claims that those respondents choose based on religion. However, the actual results beg to differ. 60% of respondents from the minority religion group overlooked the high achievement of candidate C in favour of Candidate B’s minority religion, since she ended up winning the votes from the minority religion. This is followed by candidate C and A, which proves that the respondents may not be that blinded by religion and still favours candidate C’s high achievements.

Table 2. Characteristic of Candidates

Candidates Characteristic
Gender Religion Achievement
A Male Minor Lowest
B Female Minor Medium
C Male Major Highest

            Based upon the results of the four cases in the study, there are several conclusions that can be made about the voting patterns of students of Universitas Indonesia. Despite mostly claiming to choose based upon vision and mission as well as achievements, there are underlying patterns present, ceteris paribus. Firstly, there is a tendency for voters to choose the candidate of the same gender. In terms of the majority religion group, the results are polarising. In one hand, religion didn’t seem to be that important of a factor with the occurrence of the majority religion group choosing mostly a minority religion candidate. However, in another case, religion still strives when three candidates are present.The additional candidate may be distracting for their rational thought-processes. Lastly, It found that contrary to certain beliefs, most respondents do not think that leaders have to be male.

            Having conducted the above research and coming to our conclusions, it must be noted that although some underlying patterns can be uncovered, the study seeks to represent the voting of organization officials only. This research does not claim to represent voting patterns when it comes to voting for politicians, although the results may give a little image. Furthermore, the voting patterns of undergraduate students may not represent the patterns of the society as a whole and should be seen as representing itself only. In the end, everyone strives to be rational-decision makers, but it turns out that there are always certain underlying factors that disrupt those processes.

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