Difference between revisions of "Talk:Tactical voting"

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Revision as of 12:45, 20 August 2005

Beware the "What if?" Scenario

One avid EM analyst (who may choose to remain anonymous) has fired the following scenario at several method proposals to apparently illuminate vulnerability to tactical voting. It used to trouble me until I thought about what it would mean in the real world. Once I did that, I realized that it is a preposterous red herring that is not worth worrying about. It is now important to me to explain why so that others encountering this scenario (or its ilk) are not tripped up by it.

The scenario:

Sincere votes
45 B|A>C
49 A|B>C
6 C|
"A" is the Condorcet winner
Tactical votes
45 B|C>A (insincerely ranking A beneath C)
49 A|B>C
6 C|
Cycle A > B > C > A is created. Some methods might now choose "B" or "C".

Let's translate this into real world factions so we can see what is really being proposed here:

Sincere beliefs:
45% Rep | Dem > C
49% Dem | Rep > C
6% C

Thought 1: What kind of candidate is 'C' to be sincerely ranked bottom by both Republican and Democrat voters simultaneously? "C" is not a Libertarian or Green. Considering how disdainfully the Reps and Dems (voters) view each other, 'C' must be someone truly odious and unamerican for Rs and Ds to both prefer each other to him. Therefore, we can deduce that 'C' is something like an unapologetic Communist or Nazi.

Proposed Republican Strategy, Convince the Rep 45% to rank 'C' higher
45% Rep | C > Dem
49% Dem | Rep > C
6% C

Thought 2: What would voters do if the Republican (or anyone in that campaign) publicly asked voters to up-rank a Communist or Nazi? What political hay would the Democrat make to fuel such a backlash? With such political hay available, would the Democrat have any reason to counter the strategy with a similar ploy that might see 'C' actually elected?

Thought 3: How much effort does it take to move a whole 45% of a general electorate in lock-step when many are unenthusiastic swing voters? How much of that 45% would be lost simply because valuable resources had been diverted from straightforward campaigning? Wouldn't it be easier to win some swing votes from the other camp or to win the unused 2nd place votes from the 'C' voters?

Moral of the story: If you're not an ivory tower theoretician working on an academic proof, then when confronted with a "What if?" scenario, always pause a moment to consider what it would really mean in the real world. You may discover that it's not worth designing around.