Handbook of Social Choice and Voting
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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.
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Chapter 13: Probabilistic voting in models of electoral competition

Peter J. Coughlin


This chapter reviews models pertaining to the election of public officials. In doing so, it relates to the models presented in Chapter 12 but presents them in a more formal way and with more direct focus on how candidates expect individual voters to behave. In particular, the candidates’ expectations are formulated in a probabilistic fashion. And in contrast to the general spatial models discussed in Chapter 10, voters do not vote directly on policy alternatives; rather, they vote for candidates who strategically embody policy proposals. The initial step toward the development of the first model of electoral competition was taken by Hotelling (1929), who developed a model of duopolists in which each firm chooses a location for its store. Near the end of his paper, he briefly described how his duopoly model could be reinterpreted as a model of competition between two political parties. Downs (1957) later sought to ‘borrow and elaborate upon an apparatus invented by Hotelling’ (p. 115) and made explicit the assumptions of amodel of electoral competition at which Hotelling had hinted. The resulting Hotelling–Downs (HD) model has subsequently become the ‘central model’ for research on electoral competition, in the sense that alternative models commonly include many of the assumptions used by Hotelling and Downs and are often explicitly presented as variations on the HD model.

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