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What is special about the proportion? A research report on special majority voting and the classical Condorcet jury theorem


  • Christian List

    (Nuffield College, Oxford)


It is known that, in Condorcet’s classical model of jury decisions, the proportion of jurors supporting a decision is not a significant indicator of that decision’s reliability: the probability that a particular majority decision is correct given the size of the majority depends only on the absolute margin between the majority and the minority, and is invariant under changes of the proportion in the majority if the absolute margin is held fixed. Here I show that, if we relax the assumption that juror competence is independent of the jury’s size, the proportion can be made significant: there are then conditions in which the probability that a given majority decision is correct depends only on the proportion of jurors supporting that decision, and is invariant under changes of the jury size. The proportion is significant in this way if and only if juror competence is a particular decreasing function of the jury size. However, the required condition on juror competence is not only highly special – thereby casting doubt on the significance of the proportion in realistic conditions – but it also has an adverse implication for the Condorcet jury theorem. If the proportion is significant, then the Condorcet jury theorem fails to hold; and if the Condorcet jury theorem holds, the proportion is not significant. I discuss the implications of these results for defining and justifying special majority voting from the perspective of an epistemic account of voting.

Suggested Citation

  • Christian List, 2003. "What is special about the proportion? A research report on special majority voting and the classical Condorcet jury theorem," Public Economics 0304004, EconWPA.
  • Handle: RePEc:wpa:wuwppe:0304004
    Note: Type of Document - PDF; prepared on Windows; pages: 26; figures: included

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Christian List, 2002. "On the Significance of the Absolute Margin," Public Economics 0211004, EconWPA.
    2. Ben-Yashar, Ruth C & Nitzan, Shmuel I, 1997. "The Optimal Decision Rule for Fixed-Size Committees in Dichotomous Choice Situations: The General Result," International Economic Review, Department of Economics, University of Pennsylvania and Osaka University Institute of Social and Economic Research Association, vol. 38(1), pages 175-186, February.
    3. repec:cup:apsrev:v:92:y:1998:i:01:p:23-35_20 is not listed on IDEAS
    4. Kanazawa, Satoshi, 1998. "A brief note on a further refinement of the Condorcet Jury Theorem for heterogeneous groups," Mathematical Social Sciences, Elsevier, vol. 35(1), pages 69-73, January.
    5. Daniel Berend & Jacob Paroush, 1998. "When is Condorcet's Jury Theorem valid?," Social Choice and Welfare, Springer;The Society for Social Choice and Welfare, vol. 15(4), pages 481-488.
    6. repec:cup:apsrev:v:90:y:1996:i:01:p:34-45_20 is not listed on IDEAS
    7. Timothy Feddersen & Wolfgang Pesendorfer, 1996. "Convicting the Innocent: The Inferiority of Unanimous Jury Verdicts," Discussion Papers 1170, Northwestern University, Center for Mathematical Studies in Economics and Management Science.
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    More about this item


    Condorcet jury theorem; special majority voting; proportion; decreasing juror competence;

    JEL classification:

    • D71 - Microeconomics - - Analysis of Collective Decision-Making - - - Social Choice; Clubs; Committees; Associations
    • D72 - Microeconomics - - Analysis of Collective Decision-Making - - - Political Processes: Rent-seeking, Lobbying, Elections, Legislatures, and Voting Behavior

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