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Voting for Compromises: Alternative Voting Methods in Polarized Societies


Alos-Ferrer, Carlos; Buckenmaier, Johannes (2021). Voting for Compromises: Alternative Voting Methods in Polarized Societies. Working paper series / Department of Economics 394, University of Zurich.

Abstract

Democratic societies have been increasingly confronted with extreme, knife-edge election outcomes that affect everybody’s lives and contribute to social instability. Even if political compromises based on social conventions as equity or economic arguments as efficiency are available, polarized societies might fail to select them. We demonstrate that part of the problem might be purely technical and, hence, potentially solvable. We study different voting methods in three experiments (total N = 5, 820), including small, medium-sized, and large electorates, and find that currently-used methods (Plurality Voting and Rank-Order systems) can lead voters to overwhelmingly support egoistic options. In contrast, alternative, more nuanced methods (Approval Voting and Borda Count) reduce the support for egoistic options and favor equity and efficiency, avoiding extreme outcomes. Those methods differ in whether they favor equity or efficiency when the latter benefits a majority. Our evidence suggests that targeted changes in the electoral system could favor socially-desirable compromises and increase social stability.

Abstract

Democratic societies have been increasingly confronted with extreme, knife-edge election outcomes that affect everybody’s lives and contribute to social instability. Even if political compromises based on social conventions as equity or economic arguments as efficiency are available, polarized societies might fail to select them. We demonstrate that part of the problem might be purely technical and, hence, potentially solvable. We study different voting methods in three experiments (total N = 5, 820), including small, medium-sized, and large electorates, and find that currently-used methods (Plurality Voting and Rank-Order systems) can lead voters to overwhelmingly support egoistic options. In contrast, alternative, more nuanced methods (Approval Voting and Borda Count) reduce the support for egoistic options and favor equity and efficiency, avoiding extreme outcomes. Those methods differ in whether they favor equity or efficiency when the latter benefits a majority. Our evidence suggests that targeted changes in the electoral system could favor socially-desirable compromises and increase social stability.

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Additional indexing

Item Type:Working Paper
Communities & Collections:03 Faculty of Economics > Department of Economics
Working Paper Series > Department of Economics
Dewey Decimal Classification:330 Economics
JEL Classification:C91, C92, D63, D70, D71
Uncontrolled Keywords:Polarization, social compromises, equity, efficiency, voting methods
Language:English
Date:July 2021
Deposited On:31 Aug 2021 16:19
Last Modified:31 Aug 2021 20:11
Series Name:Working paper series / Department of Economics
Number of Pages:42
ISSN:1664-705X
OA Status:Green
Official URL:https://www.econ.uzh.ch/de/research/publications/workingpapers.html?paper-id=1076

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