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Probabilistic Voting Model

Advanced Political Economics

Fall 2010
Vincenzo Galasso


Majoritarian voting model for two opportunistic
candidates (or parties)
Novelty: Voters have preferences over the policy
implemented by the winner but also over the identity
of the candidate [ideological/sympathy component]
New concept: Swing voter rather then median

The Model: Candidates

Simple Majoritarian Election over two Candidates A & B
Each Candidate is Opportunistic: only cares about
winning the election
Candidates simultaneously but independently
Determine their Policy Platform
The Policy Platform Consists of two Issue (x, y) for
example: Welfare State and Foreign Policy

The Model: Voters

Individuals Voting Behavior Depends on:
1) Policy Component: How the Policy Platform Affect their
Utility (ex. Welfare State and Foreign Policy)
2) Individual Ideology (or Sympathy) towards a Candidate (ex.
Scandals or Feeling L or R)

Imperfect Information: Candidates do not know with

Certainty the Voters Ideology (or Sympathy)

The Voters
3 Groups of Individual for instance Poor, MiddleIncome, Rich (P, M, R):
Income: YP < YM < YR
Proportion in the Population: aP, aM, aR. And aJ = 1

Within each Group, Voters Differ according to their

Ideology (or sympathy) toward the two Candidates:
iJ measures the Ideology of a Voter i in Group j
iJ > 0 means that Voter i is Ideologically closer to candidate B
iJ < 0 means that Voter i is Ideologically closer to candidate A

Individual Ideology
How are Voters Distributed within each Group (P, M, R)
according their Ideology?
Uniform Distribution Function with Density J
closer to A

- 1/2 J


closer to B

1/2 J

that as the Density Increase ( J ), the

Group becomes Less Ideological: Fewer Voters have
an Ideology or Sympathy towards a Candidate


Candidates Average Popularity

Voters Decisions are also affected by the Candidates Average
Popularity before the Election
Candidates cannot Control their Popularity before the Election.
The Outbreak of Scandals or other News may Reduce one Candidate
Popularity, while increasing the others (e.g. Monica Lewinsky):

>0 means that Candidate B is more Popular

<0 means that Candidate A is more Popular
Candidates only know with which probability a scandal will
take place:
favors A

- 1/2


favors B


Individual Voting Decision

Voters Consider three Elements before Deciding who
to Vote for:

Policy: the Utility Induced by the Candidate Policy Platform:

Notice this Element is Group Specific


Individual Ideology: iJ


Average Popularity:

Voter i in Group J Vote for Candidate B if:

UJ(XB,YB)+ iJ+ > UJ(XA,YA)

Timing Of The Game

1. ELECTORAL CAMPAIN: Candidates Announce
Independently and Simultaneously -- their Policy
Platform (XA,YA) and (XB,YB).
[Notice: they know the Distribution of Individual Ideology,
but they do not know their Average Popularity]
2. Before the election, a SHOCK may occur that determines
the Average Popularity of the candidates, .
3. ELECTION: Voters Choose their Favorite Candidate
4. POLICY: After the Election, the Winner Implement their
Policy Platform

The SWING Voter

The Swing Voter is the Voter who after Considering the
Policy Platform and the Average Popularity is Indifferent
between Voting for Candidate A or B:
(in group J) J = UJ(XA, YA) - UJ (XB, YB) -
Why is this Voter Relevant? A Small Change in the Policy
Platform is sufficient to Gain her Vote
Group J

Voters SWING

- 1/2 J

J 0

for B

1/2 J

Notice: Candidates set their Platform before the Average

Popularity is know they do not know who the Swing Voter is

The Candidate Decision

Candidates have to set their Policy Platform before the
Average Popularity is known They maximize the
Probability of being Elected subject to Scandal
Who Votes for Candidate A? Voters to the left of the
Swing Voter in each Group
for A

Group J

- 1/2 J
Voters in group J:

J 0

1/2 J

( J+1/2 J) J = J J +1/2 =
1/2 + J[U J(XA, YA) - U J(XB, YB)] - J

The Candidate Decision

Total votes for A (in all groups):
A = J/2 + JJ [UJ(XA,YA) - UJ(XB,YB)] - JJ

When does candidate A win the election?

A > 1/2

A = 1/2 + JJ [UJ(XA,YA) - UJ(XB,YB)] - > 1/2


J = 1 and = JJ is the Average Ideology

A > 1/2 JJ [ UJ(XA,YA) - UJ(XB,YB)] - > 0

The Candidate Decision

Candidate A wins the Election if A > 1/2

< JJ/ [ UJ(XA,YA) - UJ(XB,YB)] =

Not Surprisingly, Candidate A wins if she is not hit by a Scandal

But Candidate A does not know d she will set the Policy
Platform (XA,YA) to Maximize the Probability of Winning the
Pr (A > 1/2) = Pr ( < )
Candidate A
- 1/2


Pr ( < ) = ( + 1/2 )

The Candidate Decision

Candidate A chooses (XA,YA) in order to maximize
Pr ( < ) = 1/2 + (/)[JJ (UJ(XA,YA) - UJ(XB,YB))]
Policy chosen to please the voters UJ(XA, YA)
More Relevance is given to the More Numerous Group
(J) and to the Less Ideological Group (J)
Candidate B chooses (XB,YB) to maximize
Pr ( > ) = 1 - Pr ( < )
Both Candidates Set the Same Policy Platform
(XA, YA) = (XB, YB)

Probabilistic Voting: Novelty

Majoritarian Voting Model with Two Opportunistic
1. Voters have Preferences over the Policy Implemented
by the Politicians and over the Identity/Ideology of the
2. Before the Election, a Shock may occur that Changes
the Average Popularity of the Candidates

Probabilistic Voting: Insights

Converge on the Same Policy Platform
2. IDEOLOGY: Relevance of the Less Ideological (or
Swing) Voters. They are easier to Convince
through an Appropriate Policy