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An empirical analysis of valence in electoral competition


  • Fabian Gouret


  • Guillaume Hollard


  • Stéphane Rossignol



Spatial models of voting have dominated mathematical political theory since the seminal work of Downs. The Downsian model assumes that each elector votes on the basis of his utility function which depends only on the distance between his preferred policy platform and the ones proposed by candidates. A succession of papers introduces valence issues into the model, i.e., candidates' characteristics which are independent of the platforms they propose. So far, little is known about which of the existing utility functions used in valence models is the most empirically founded. Using a large survey run prior to the 2007 French presidential election, we evaluate and compare several spatial voting models with valence. Existing models perform poorly in fitting the data. However, strong empirical regularities emerge. This leads us to a new model of valence that we call the intensity valence model. This new model makes sense theoretically and is grounded empirically.
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Suggested Citation

  • Fabian Gouret & Guillaume Hollard & Stéphane Rossignol, 2011. "An empirical analysis of valence in electoral competition," Social Choice and Welfare, Springer;The Society for Social Choice and Welfare, vol. 37(2), pages 309-340, July.
  • Handle: RePEc:spr:sochwe:v:37:y:2011:i:2:p:309-340
    DOI: 10.1007/s00355-010-0495-0

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Martin J. Osborne, 1995. "Spatial Models of Political Competition under Plurality Rule: A Survey of Some Explanations of the Number of Candidates and the Positions They Take," Canadian Journal of Economics, Canadian Economics Association, vol. 28(2), pages 261-301, May.
    2. Lorenzo Cappellari & Stephen P. Jenkins, 2006. "Calculation of multivariate normal probabilities by simulation, with applications to maximum simulated likelihood estimation," Stata Journal, StataCorp LP, vol. 6(2), pages 156-189, June.
    3. Nicolas Sahuguet & Nicola Persico, 2006. "Campaign spending regulation in a model of redistributive politics," Economic Theory, Springer;Society for the Advancement of Economic Theory (SAET), vol. 28(1), pages 95-124, May.
    4. Herrera, Helios & Levine, David K. & Martinelli, César, 2008. "Policy platforms, campaign spending and voter participation," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 92(3-4), pages 501-513, April.
    5. Burden, Barry C., 2004. "Candidate Positioning in US Congressional Elections," British Journal of Political Science, Cambridge University Press, vol. 34(02), pages 211-227, April.
    6. Alvarez, R. Michael & Nagler, Jonathan, 2000. "A New Approach for Modelling Strategic Voting in Multiparty Elections," British Journal of Political Science, Cambridge University Press, vol. 30(01), pages 57-75, January.
    7. T. S. Breusch & A. R. Pagan, 1980. "The Lagrange Multiplier Test and its Applications to Model Specification in Econometrics," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 47(1), pages 239-253.
    8. JuanD. Carrillo & Micael Castanheira, 2008. "Information and Strategic Political Polarisation," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 118(530), pages 845-874, July.
    9. Norman Schofield, 2003. "Valence Competition in the Spatial Stochastic Model," Journal of Theoretical Politics, , vol. 15(4), pages 371-383, October.
    10. Dix, Manfred & Santore, Rudy, 2002. "Candidate ability and platform choice," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 76(2), pages 189-194, July.
    11. Anthony Downs, 1957. "An Economic Theory of Political Action in a Democracy," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 65, pages 135-135.
    12. Aragones, Enriqueta & Palfrey, Thomas R., 2002. "Mixed Equilibrium in a Downsian Model with a Favored Candidate," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 103(1), pages 131-161, March.
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    19. Guillaume Hollard & Stéphane Rossignol, 2008. "An Alternative Approach to Valence Advantage in Spatial Competition," Journal of Public Economic Theory, Association for Public Economic Theory, vol. 10(3), pages 441-454, June.
    20. Carrillo, Juan D & Castanheira, Micael, 2002. "Platform Divergence, Political Efficiency and the Median Voter Theorem," CEPR Discussion Papers 3180, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
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    Cited by:

    1. Motz, Nicolas, 2012. "Who emerges from smoke-filled rooms? Political parties and candidate selection," MPRA Paper 42678, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    2. Menezes, Mozart B.C. & da Silveira, Giovani J.C. & Drezner, Zvi, 2016. "Democratic elections and centralized decisions: Condorcet and Approval Voting compared with Median and Coverage locations," European Journal of Operational Research, Elsevier, vol. 253(1), pages 195-203.
    3. Lionel Page & Paul Antoine-Chevalier, 2016. "Zoon politikon or homo oeconomicus ? How do people vote?," QuBE Working Papers 037, QUT Business School.

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