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On the Theory of Strategic Voting

  • David P. Myatt

Many analyses of plurality-rule elections predict the complete coordination of strategic voting, and hence support for only two candidates. Here I suggest that stable multi-candidate support will arise in equilibrium. A group of voters must partially coordinate behind one of two challenging candidates in order to dislodge a disliked incumbent. In a departure from existing models, the popular support for each challenger is uncertain. This support must be inferred from the private observation of informative signals, such as the social communication of preferences throughout the electorate, or the imperfect observation of opinion polls. The uniquely stable voting equilibrium entails only limited strategic voting and hence incomplete coordination. This is due to the surprising presence of negative feedback: an increase in the degree of strategic voting by others reduces the incentives for an individual to vote strategically. The incentive to vote strategically is lower in relatively marginal elections, after controlling for the distance from contention of a trailing preferred challenger. A calibration of the model applied to the UK General Election of 1997 is consistent with the impact of strategic voting and the reported accuracy of voters` understanding of the electoral situation. It suggests that nearly 50 seats may have been lost by the Conservative party due to strategic voting.

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File URL: http://www.economics.ox.ac.uk/materials/working_papers/paper186.pdf
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Paper provided by University of Oxford, Department of Economics in its series Economics Series Working Papers with number 186.

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Date of creation: 01 Mar 2004
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Handle: RePEc:oxf:wpaper:186
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  1. Timothy Feddersen & Wolfgang Pesendorfer, 1997. "Voting Behavior and Information Aggregation in Elections with Private Information," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 65(5), pages 1029-1058, September.
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