Preferences, constraints, and choices

Tactical voting in mass elections

Authored by: R. Michael Alvarez , D. Roderick Kiewiet , Lucas Núñez

The Routledge Handbook of Elections, Voting Behaviorand Public Opinion

Print publication date:  September  2017
Online publication date:  September  2017

Print ISBN: 9781138890404
eBook ISBN: 9781315712390
Adobe ISBN:


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Voters have preferences over parties and candidates. Their ability to express these preferences in an election is constrained by the ballot choices that are presented to them and in the way in which ballots are aggregated into outcomes. In most cases voters do not sense the impact of these constraints, nor any tension between their preferences and their choices. In single member district systems with plurality rule (SMD), they simply vote for the candidate that they most prefer. In multi-candidate proportional representation (PR) elections, sincere voters’ rankings of candidates mirror their preference orderings. Sometimes, however, voters do not act sincerely, and make choices that do not follow from a straightforward mapping of their preferences.

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