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A New Approach for Modelling Strategic Voting in Multiparty Elections

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  01 January 2000

R. MICHAEL ALVAREZ
Affiliation:
Division of the Humanities and Social Sciences, California Institute of Technology.
JONATHAN NAGLER
Affiliation:
Department of Political Science, University of California, Riverside.

Abstract

Whether citizens vote strategically, using their votes to defeat their least-preferred candidate, or vote sincerely, voting for their first choice among the alternatives, is a question of longstanding interest. We offer two innovations in searching for the answer to this question. First, we begin with a more consistent model of sincere voting in multiparty democratic systems than has been presented in the literature to date. Secondly, we incorporate a new operationalization of the objective potential for strategic behaviour. We offer a test of strategic voting in the 1987 British general election based on the variance in strategic setting across constituencies in Britain. We allow voters to use available information about the relative standings of parties in their constituency in deciding whether or not to cast a strategic vote. We estimate a lower level of strategic voting than many other methods have estimated. We also demonstrate that the use of self-reported vote motivation causes errors in estimating the amount of strategic voting, and that this problem is exacerbated the further from the election the self-report is obtained.

Type
Research Article
Copyright
© 2000 Cambridge University Press

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Footnotes

This is one of many papers by the authors on voting in multiparty elections; the ordering of names reflects alphabetic convention. Alvarez's work was supported by the National Science Foundation through SBR-9709327; Nagler's work was supported by the National Science Foundation through SBR-9413939 and SBR-9709214. We thank Jonathan Katz and Guy Whitten for supplying helpful data for this project. We also thank Gary Cox, Jonathan Katz, Gary King and Burt Monroe for discussions of this subject. Last, we thank Shaun Bowler for his work with us on a related project. A previous version of this article was presented at the Annual Meetings of the Midwest Political Science Association, 1997; that paper was awarded the 1998 Robert H. Durr Award by the Midwest Political Science Association for the best paper applying quantitative analysis to a substantive problem in political science. The authors may be reached at: rma@crunch.caltech.edu, and nagler@wizard.ucr.edu, respectively.
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