Handbook of Social Choice and Voting

Handbook of Social Choice and Voting

Edited by Jac C. Heckelman and Nicholas R. Miller

This Handbook provides an overview of interdisciplinary research related to social choice and voting that is intended for a broad audience. Expert contributors from various fields present critical summaries of the existing literature, including intuitive explanations of technical terminology and well-known theorems, suggesting new directions for research.

Chapter 12: Competing for votes

James F. Adams

Subjects: economics and finance, political economy, public choice theory, politics and public policy, political economy, public choice


This chapter surveys spatial models of elections, including multidimensional as well as one-dimensional models, and multi-party as well as two-party models. After noting that these models imply considerable degrees of convergence in parties’ policy positions – a pattern that clashes with many empirical observations – I explore two further extensions involving both parties’ and voters’ motivations: namely, that parties do not merely maximize their support but, like voters, have policy preferences that affect their electoral strategies; and that voters, in addition to their policy concerns, weigh parties’ images along universally valued character-based dimensions of evaluation such as competence, integrity and leadership ability, that is, by valence issues. As outlined in Chapters 10 and 13, the spatial model of party competition associated with the research of Harold Hotelling and Anthony Downs posits that the policy debates that preoccupy voters can be represented as options along a one-dimensional continuum, and that the policies that parties present and voters’ policy views can both be represented by positions along this continuum. In national elections there may be multiple dimensions representing different general ideological dimensions of policy debate, such as those referred to as ‘liberal’ versus ‘conservative’ (or left-versus right-wing), that divide political parties (and voters), and which involve disagreements over issues such as income redistribution, taxes and government intervention in the economy.

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