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Election Goals and Strategies: Equivalent and Nonequivalent Candidate Objectives


  • Aranson, Peter H.
  • Hinich, Melvin J.
  • Ordeshook, Peter C.


This essay ascertains some general conditions for equivalence and nonequivalence among six election objectives: 01, maximizing expected plurality; 02, maximizing proportion of expected vote; 02, maximizing expected vote; 04, maximizing probability that plurality exceeds some level; 05, maximizing probability that proportion of vote exceeds some level; 06, maximizing probability that vote exceeds some level. The major findings are these: (1) 01, 02, and 03 are equivalent if the election is zero-sum-like in expected vote; (2) 01 and 02 are equivalent if competition is strongly symmetric. A necessary condition for this equivalence is also presented for 2-candidate elections: (3) 01 and 04 are equivalent, as are 03 and 06, if the candidate's forecasting error is independent of all strategies; (4) 01 and 04 are equivalent for two-candidate elections, and for n-candidate elections 02 and 05 are equivalent, as are 03 and 06, if the distribution of a candidate's forecasting error is multivariate normal, and if the level of plurality, proportion, or vote to be exceeded is the minimax value of the election game under 01, 02, or 03; (5) findings of equivalence and nonequivalence depend upon the definition of equivalence (findings 1 and 2 rely upon an election with all candidates at equilibrium strategies, while findings 3 and 4 do not); (6) equivalence and nonequivalence among election objectives may be sensitive to the candidate's attitude toward risk, i.e., to the functional form of his utility function in pluraliy, vote proportion, or vote; election objectives depend on information, competitive environment, and constitutional arrangements. Hence, statements of preference for alternative election systems, laws, and reforms perforce entail reasonable theoretical expectations about the way in which these systems, laws, and reforms affect the candidates' campaign objectives, as well as about equivalence and nonequivalence among these objectives.

Suggested Citation

  • Aranson, Peter H. & Hinich, Melvin J. & Ordeshook, Peter C., 1974. "Election Goals and Strategies: Equivalent and Nonequivalent Candidate Objectives," American Political Science Review, Cambridge University Press, vol. 68(1), pages 135-152, March.
  • Handle: RePEc:cup:apsrev:v:68:y:1974:i:01:p:135-152_23

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    Cited by:

    1. Mandler, Michael, 2013. "How to win a large election," Games and Economic Behavior, Elsevier, vol. 78(C), pages 44-63.
    2. Larry Samuelson, 1984. "Electoral equilibria with restricted strategies," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 43(3), pages 307-327, January.
    3. Selim Jürgen Ergun, 2015. "Centrist’S Curse? An Electoral Competition Model With Credibility Constraints," The Singapore Economic Review (SER), World Scientific Publishing Co. Pte. Ltd., vol. 60(05), pages 1-18, December.
    4. John W. Patty, 2005. "Generic Difference of Expected Vote Share and Probability of Victory Maximization in Simple Plurality Elections with Probabilistic Voters," Public Economics 0502006, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    5. Kenneth Koford, 1982. "Why so much stability? An optimistic view of the possibility of rational legislative decisionmaking," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 38(1), pages 3-19, March.
    6. Dotti, Valerio, 2014. "The Political Economy of Publicly Provided Private Goods," MPRA Paper 54026, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    7. Dotti, Valerio, 2019. "The political economy of public education," Research in Economics, Elsevier, vol. 73(1), pages 35-52.
    8. Gallemore, Caleb & Guisinger, Amy & Kruuse, Mikkel & Ruysschaert, Denis & Jespersen, Kristjan, 2018. "Escaping the “Teenage” Years: The Politics of Rigor and the Evolution of Private Environmental Standards," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 152(C), pages 76-87.
    9. Katerina Sherstyuk, 1998. "How to gerrymander: A formal analysis," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 95(1), pages 27-49, April.
    10. Martin Zechman, 1979. "Dynamic models of the voter's decision calculus: Incorporating retrospective considerations into rational-choice models of individual voting behavior," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 34(3), pages 297-315, September.
    11. James Enelow & Melvin Hinich, 1989. "A general probabilistic spatial theory of elections," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 61(2), pages 101-113, May.
    12. Lee Dutter, 1981. "Voter preferences, simple electoral games, and equilibria in two-candidate contests," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 37(3), pages 403-423, January.
    13. Deborah Fletcher & Steven Slutsky, 2011. "Campaign allocations under probabilistic voting," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 146(3), pages 469-499, March.
    14. Patty, John Wiggs, 2005. "Local equilibrium equivalence in probabilistic voting models," Games and Economic Behavior, Elsevier, vol. 51(2), pages 523-536, May.
    15. Gil Epstein & Raphaël Franck, 2007. "Campaign resources and electoral success: Evidence from the 2002 French parliamentary elections," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 131(3), pages 469-489, June.
    16. John Patty, 2007. "Generic difference of expected vote share and probability of victory maximization in simple plurality elections with probabilistic voters," Social Choice and Welfare, Springer;The Society for Social Choice and Welfare, vol. 29(1), pages 149-173, July.
    17. George Warskett & Stanley Winer & Walter Hettich, 1998. "The Complexity of Tax Structure in Competitive Political Systems," International Tax and Public Finance, Springer;International Institute of Public Finance, vol. 5(2), pages 123-151, May.
    18. Tanner, Thomas Cole, 1994. "The spatial theory of elections: an analysis of voters' predictive dimensions and recovery of the underlying issue space," ISU General Staff Papers 1994010108000018174, Iowa State University, Department of Economics.

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