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The Power of the States in U.S. Presidential Elections

  • George Rabinowitz (a1) and Stuart Elaine Macdonald (a1)


The Electoral College is a uniquely American political institution, yet its impact on both the power of the American states and the relative power of citizens living in different states is not well understood. Game theorists have broached the state power problem exclusively in terms of the size of each of the states. Empirical investigators have been less systematic, basing their analyses solely on which states have been close in a single election. In this paper we present a model of state power which combines the idea of the pivotal player from game theory with an empirical model of state voting. In doing so we provide a theoretically derived and empirically meaningful assessment of state power in presidential elections. We then trace the implications of the power of the states for the relative power of individual voters, finding large disparities between voters from different states.



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