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Condorcet's Theory of Voting

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  02 September 2013

H. P. Young
University of Maryland


Condcrcet's criterion states that an alternative that defeats every other by a simple majority is the socially optimal choice. Condorcet argued that if the object of voting is to determine the “best” decision for society but voters sometimes make mistakes in their judgments, then the majority alternative (if it exists) is statistically most likely to be the best choice. Strictly speaking, this claim is not true; in some situations Bordas rule gives a sharper estimate of the best alternative. Nevertheless, Condorcet did propose a novel and statistically correct rule for finding the most likely ranking of the alternatives. This procedure, which is sometimes known as “Kemeny's rule,” is the unique social welfare function that satisfies a variant of independence of irrelevant alternatives together with several other standard properties.

Copyright © American Political Science Association 1988

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