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Probabilistic voting

Bruno Amable
University of Paris I

2011

Bruno Amable (Paris I)

Probabilistic voting

2011

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Median Voter models:


- Traditional work-horse model in many applications
- Focus on distribution of preferences. Distribution of preferences F is
continuous.
- Median voter equilibrium is simple to characterise
- Much structure to the models economic side can be added
Probabilistic Voting Models
- Originally suggested as solution to the problem when a Condorcet
Winner fails to exist
- Probabilistic voting: There is an equilibrium policy vector q for
multidimensional issues when number of votes for candidates / parties
depends on electoral platforms with some probability.
- Voters ideologicalpreferences smooth the candidatesproblems by
eliminating sharp discontinuities in their probability of election:
- Ideologicalvoters keep on voting for the preferred party even if electoral
program of other party is closer to their bliss points (at least in one policy
dimension)
Bruno Amable (Paris I)

Probabilistic voting

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Probabilistic Voting Models answer the question why there is so much


stability in political outcomes. Observation that equilibria do not
uctuate, as implied by Downsian Electoral Competition and Median
Voter Models.
Candidates dier by electoral platforms (generally, their announced
policy vector q) and another dimension, called ideology, unrelated to
this policy
Ideologyis permanent and cannot credibly be modied as part of
the electoral platform
Voters with same endowments (their income) may dier in the
evaluation of ideology, voters have candidate preferences; voter
mobility comes into play: less ideological voters are more mobile
between parties.
It pays candidates to modify policy in the direction of favoured
groups/mobile voters. swingvoter is crucial for election outcome.
PVM relevant when politicians care about policy and not only about
winning o ce. Politicians are also ideologically motivated
Bruno Amable (Paris I)

Probabilistic voting

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Assumptions
Income distribution F () is discrete (i.e. a step function) and not
continuous as in the Median Voter Model.
F is the cumulative distribution function. There are three distinct income
groups,
P: the Poorare P x 100% of population and all members have
income y P where P < 21
F (Y

yP ) = P
M: The Middle Classare M x100% of population and all members
have income y M where M < 12

F (Y
yM ) = P + M .
M
m
y = y the median income
R: The Richare R x100% of population and all members have
income y R where R < 21
F (Y
yR ) = P + M + R = 1 Average (expected) income is given by
J =P ,M ,R y J J
Bruno Amable (Paris I)

Probabilistic voting

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Voters have candidate preferences: Voters base their voting decision


both on the economic policy announcements gA , gB and on additional
utility out of the candidatesideologies, labelled iJ , and out of
candidatespopularity
Voter i in income class J votes for candidate A if the policy
announcement of A compensates for the utility out of ideology iJ , i
has from voting for party B: W iJ (gA ) > W iJ (gB ) + iJ +
iJ is voter is individual ideological bias toward candidate B which is not
inuenced by the policy announcement gB nor gA
- If iJ > 0, voter i in group J is ideologically closer to candidate B,
- If iJ < 0 the voter is ideologically closer to candidate A.
- If iJ = 0, the voter is ideologically neutral, as she does not lean towards
any of the two candidates
Since voters have dierent ideology within each income group, there
will be voters close to candidate A among the poor, as well as among
the middle-income or the rich.
Bruno Amable (Paris I)

Probabilistic voting

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In the same income group J, individual preferences dier regarding


the evaluation of ideology
iJ has a group specic distribution which is uniform in the interval
1
, 1
2J 2J
Probability that i in J is ideologically biased amounting to iJ is
g J (iJ ) = J for i 2 J

Bruno Amable (Paris I)

Probabilistic voting

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The expected ideological bias E [iJ ] in each income class is 0:

E [iJ ] =

1
2J
1
2J

iJ g J (iJ )d iJ =

1 iJ 2 J 21 J
j 1
2
2J

= 0
The average voter in group J has neither bias towards B nor A and
only evaluates policy
However, the distribution of ideology may dier across income group
Often-made assumption: middle income voters may have a higher
density than the other groups, M > P and M > R [Why?]
As the density, J , increases, the distribution function becomes more
concentrated around the average (assumed to be equal to zero), and
hence the group becomes less ideological, as fewer voters have a
strong ideology or sympathy towards a candidate, while more voters
are neutral, or almost neutral.
Bruno Amable (Paris I)

Probabilistic voting

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Individualsvoting decision is also aected by an additional subjective


element, usually referred to as the candidatesaverage popularity
before the election
This average popularity is common to all the voters, and proxies the
mood of the electorate as the elections approach
This average popularity with
> 0, candidate B is more popular than candidate A
< 0 candidate A is more popular than candidate B
Population as a whole rates candidatespopularity .

Bruno Amable (Paris I)

Probabilistic voting

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Distribution of is uniform in the interval


1
1
popularity takes a value 2
2 , 2 is .

1
1
2 , 2

.Probability that

The expected popularity bias


1
R 1
E [] = 0 = 21 h () d = 21 2 j 2 1
2

On average, the population has neither bias towards B nor A and only
evaluates policy
Candidates cannot control their average popularity before the election
they are aware of the fact that for instance scandals may occur with
some probability
Bruno Amable (Paris I)

Probabilistic voting

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voters consider three elements before deciding who to vote for:


1

Policy: W iJ (gA ) vs. W iJ (gB )

ideologyiJ

average popularity

Bruno Amable (Paris I)

Probabilistic voting

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Voter i in group J will vote for party B, if the utility associated with
the platform indicated by this party plus his individual ideology and
the average popularity is larger than the utility associated with the
platform launched by party A
iJ can be positive or negative, iJ > 0 indicates an ideology
closer to party B
can be positive or negative, and > 0 indicates an average
popularity in favour of party B
W iJ (gB ) + iJ + > W iJ (gA )

Bruno Amable (Paris I)

Probabilistic voting

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Timing of events

Parties announce their electoral platforms gA , gB simultaneously and


noncooperatively. They know F( ), i.e. the income distribution which
is the distribution of policy preferences for g in the Poor, Middle, and
Rich classes. They know the voter-specic distribution of ideology iJ
, and the distribution of population ideology , but they do not know
yet their realised values.

Actual value of is realised; iJ is realised; uncertainty is resolved

Elections are held

Elected candidate implements announced policy platform

Bruno Amable (Paris I)

Probabilistic voting

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Swing voter in group J


Denition
A swing voter in income class J is a voter, whose ideological bias iJ ,
given the candidatesplatforms and given the overall popularity , makes
him indierent between the two parties:
W J (gB ) + J + > W J (gA ) () J = W J (gA ) W J (gB )
All voters i in group J with iJ

J prefer party A to party B

J indicates the ideology of the swing voter in group J


With the assumption of a uniform distribution of ideology within
group, the mass of swing voters in each group will depend on the
group density: the higher the density, the higher the number of swing
voters.

Bruno Amable (Paris I)

Probabilistic voting

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The swing voter divides the income group into two subgroups

Bruno Amable (Paris I)

Probabilistic voting

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Political platforms will be designed so as to target the swing voter


This is because the swing voter, by being indierent between the two
groups is easy to capture
A small change in the policy platform in the direction of increasing
this voters utility is su cient to gain his vote
On the contrary, a voter, who has a strong ideological bias in favour
of party A, will be more expensive to convince, as party B would have
to allocate more resource to this voters group in its policy platform
to please this reluctant voter
The identity of the swing voter is not known to the candidates, when
they select their policy platform, as it depends on the realization of
the scandal, which may take place before the election.

Bruno Amable (Paris I)

Probabilistic voting

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CandidatesDecisions

Candidates have to set their policy platform simultaneously and


independently from one another before their average popularity is
known, that is, before a possible scandal outbreak
Due to this uncertainty, candidates, despite being opportunistic,
cannot choose their platform in order to make sure to win the election
They may only maximise the probability of being elected, subject to
the occurrence of a scandal
In maximising their chances of being in power, candidates will select
their platform in an attempt of please as many citizens as possible
However, it is impossible to please some voters without upsetting
others

Bruno Amable (Paris I)

Probabilistic voting

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Party As political decision


By using the swing voter in each group, one can identify individuals who
will vote for party A: they are the voters to the left of the swing voter

By using the denition of swing voter, one can easily obtain the mass of
the voters for candidate A in group J:
J

1
2J

=
=

Bruno Amable (Paris I)

1
+ J J
2
h
1
+ J W J (gA )
2

Probabilistic voting

W J (gB )

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One applies the same reasoning to each group and sum up votes
across groups. Total vote share for party A, A is
A =

J =P ,M ,R

h
J
+ J J W J (gA )
2

W J (gB )

1
Party
h A wins the
i
n Jelection when A > 2 .The probabilityois
Pr J =P ,M ,R 2 + J J W J (gA ) W J (gB ) J > 12

The probability of winning becomes a smooth function of the distance


between the two electoral platforms; dierent from the median voter
model
pA is now continuous (and concave) in gA and no longer a step
function as in the Downsian Electoral competition and Median Voter
model.

Bruno Amable (Paris I)

Probabilistic voting

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Dening = J J J and taking into account that J J = 1,


party A wins the election when
n
h
1
+
J J W J (gA )
2 J =P ,M ,R

W J (gB )

io

>

1
2

i.e. when
<

J =P ,M ,R J J W J (gA )

W J (gB )

Party A wins the elections if the realisation of the shock that takes
place before the election, , is below a certain threshold
Pr A >

Bruno Amable (Paris I)

1
1
= Pr < = +
2
2

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Parties cannot control the outbreak of these scandals; they may


however select their policy platform in order to maximise the
probability of winning the election or in order to reduce the
probability of losing the election if a scandal breaks out
probability of winning the election is the same as the probability that
a scandal below a certain threshold occurs
This threshold is endogenous; it depends on the partiesplatform

Bruno Amable (Paris I)

Probabilistic voting

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Party A will hence maximise the probability of winning the election by


setting its policy platform, (gA ), in order to maximise the probability
that the scandal is below this threshold
n
h
io
1
J J W J (gA ) W J (gB )
Pr < = +

2 J =P ,M ,R
the policy platform chosen by party A, gA , will aim at pleasing voters
in the more numerous (J ) and less ideological (J ) groups
Policies targeting more numerous (income) groups (large J ) have the
advantage of providing benets to more potential voters. However,
some voters in these numerous groups may be highly ideological, and
hence di cult to convince, despite the benets provided by the
platform. The idea of targeting less ideological groups (large J )
captures this element
Groups with a large mass of non-ideological voters that is, with
many swing voters are easy targets
Bruno Amable (Paris I)

Probabilistic voting

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Party B will follow the same strategy


gB will be chosen to maximise the probability of being elected
Pr B > 12
In a simple majority voting election between two parties, this amounts
to minimising the probability that party A wins the election
Pr B >

1
= Pr > = 1
2

Pr

The maximisation problem of party B is the symmetric of the problem


of party A
Both parties choose the same policy platform:
gA = gB
Both parties share the same concave preferences and the same
technologyfor converting tax revenues into expected votes (by
announcing public goods gA , gB )
both parties end up nding the same policy announcement optimal,
for given votersideologies iJ and candidatespopularity
Bruno Amable (Paris I)

Probabilistic voting

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Specifying the preference function


Consider a society inhabited by a large number (a continuum) of
voters
population has size (mass) 1
Type i consumer/voter has preferences that are linear in the
consumption of a market-produced good c i and concave in the
consumption of a publicly provided good
Preferences are quasi-linear :
w i = c i + H (g )
the public good g is non-rival and non-excludable, i.e. a pure public
good: same per-capita provision to everybody, hence g i = g for all
voters
Government spending (the public good g ) is nanced by taxing the
income y i of every voter i with a linear tax rate , where 0 1
Income diers, implying that consumption diers, as c i = (1
Bruno Amable (Paris I)

Probabilistic voting

) y i
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Government budget g is given by

y i f y i dy i = E y i = y = g

g can be thought of as the policy instrument, equivalent to being the


policy instrument in this one-dimension policy game
Voter i has the policy preference function:
W g ; i = y i = W i (g ) = (1

W i (g ) =

= (y

Bruno Amable (Paris I)

g
y
g)

) y i + H (g )

y i + H (g )
yi
+ H (g )
y

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If W J (gA ) = (y
pA =

gA ) yy + H (gA ), one has

1
+
2 J =P
,M ,R

J J (y

gA )

yJ
+ H (gA )
y

W J (gB )

pA
yJ
= 0 () J J Hg (gA ) = J J
gA
y
J =P ,M ,R
J =P ,M ,R
gA = Hg
With ye =

J J J y J
J J J

Bruno Amable (Paris I)

1 J J J y J
y J J J

= Hg

ye
y

= gB

gS

the swing voterweighted income

Probabilistic voting

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Comparison with the pseudo social optimum (utilitarian


criterion)

Parties applying Probabilistic voting maximise a particular weighted


social welfare function: bias in favour of numerous and swinging
groups
Dierence with the median voter equilibrium: g m = Hg
R > > P , ye > y =) Hg

Bruno Amable (Paris I)

ye
y

Probabilistic voting

< Hg 1 ( 1 ) < Hg

1
1

ym
y
ym
y

2011

.If

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There can be equilibrium in multidimensional issues but with fewer


assumptions regarding each voters policy preferences than for q in
the median voter model
Policy conicts in some dimension q J is compensated by inertia due
to voterspreferences for one or the other party
Prediction of the medianvoter model that moreskewed income
distributions are associated with larger public spending becomes
invalid if parties care about swingvoters in politically highly mobile
voter groups

Bruno Amable (Paris I)

Probabilistic voting

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Example

A 3-class economy: the poor (P), middle class (M) and the rich (R)
respective incomes: Y P = 12 , Y M = 23 , Y R = 1
proportions: P = 45%, M = 30%, R = 25%
Agentsutility function: U i (C , G ) = C + i ln G ; i = 1
i = P, M, R

Yi ;

The public good is nanced with a lump-sum tax, the government


budget constraint is G = T

Bruno Amable (Paris I)

Probabilistic voting

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Indirect utility function: V i (G ) = Y i


First order condition:

1+

Median-voter result: G m =

Bruno Amable (Paris I)

1 Yi
G
1
3

G+ 1

Y i ln G

= 0 () G i = 1

Probabilistic voting

Yi

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Probabilistic voting
Individual party preferences within group are distributed according to
a uniform distribution with zero mean and unitary density

Average popularity is distributed according to a uniform distribution


with zero mean and unitary density:

Bruno Amable (Paris I)

Probabilistic voting

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Choice of the public good?


Identication of the swing voter in each group
i = V i (GA )

Vi (GB )

In any group i, the fraction of the voters in favour of candidate A is equal


to
i +

1
1
i = + i i
2i
2

summing up over all groups, the fraction of all voters for A is


A

V i (GA )

Vi (GB ) i i

V i (GA )

Vi (GB ) i i

Bruno Amable (Paris I)

i i +

Probabilistic voting

i
2

1
+
2
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Party A wins the election if A >

V i (GA )

1
2

Vi (GB ) i i

i.e.
<

i V i (GA )

Vi (GB ) i i

Pr A >

1
1
>
2
2

1
1
= +
2
2

Hence party A maximises


1
+
GA 2

1
max +
GA 2

max

V i (GA )

Yi

Vi (GB ) i i

GA + 1

Y i ln GA i i

Bruno Amable (Paris I)

Probabilistic voting

Vi (GB ) i i
i

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First order condition

1+

YP
GA

+ M

1+

YM
GA

+ R

1+

YR
GA

=0

GAPV = 0.325
Even with identical s, the equilibrium is dierent from the median
voter result
GAPV < G m
A high R would lead to a low GAPV

Bruno Amable (Paris I)

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Lobbying models
In Probabilistic Voting Models:
Voting strategy of voter i in group J is aected by (1) the economic
policy that is implemented (2) his individual ideological bias iJ
toward party B, and (3) the popularity of B.
If parties apply probabilistic voting, they maximise a particular social
welfare function, weighing all votersutility. But weights are biased
towards groups with a narrow distribution of ideology (groups with
many swing voters, groups with high concerns of policy evaluation,
high J
Equilibrium outcome of public good provision (e.g. infrastructure,
social spending, health care, theaters ) does not coincide with the
median voter model outcome in 2-party competition
If voting is on multidimensional issues (q contains at least two
policies), an equilibrium exists with probabilistic voting, if the
probability of winning function p( ) is well behaved. The equilibrium
is unique if p( ) is concave
Bruno Amable (Paris I)

Probabilistic voting

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Lobbying models

Well-dened interest groups (income groups) may also exert inuence


on the policy process through other forms of political action, here:
lobbying by electoral campaign contributions
Parties seek only election victory. Organised lobbies can help them
achieve this goal by contributing to campaigns in cash or by working
in the campaign
Modelling lobbying in the context of electoral competition: extension
of the probabilistic voting model
Obvious result: groups organised in a lobby have more inuence on
policy than non-organised groups

Bruno Amable (Paris I)

Probabilistic voting

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Same framework as before (identical s)


Probabilistic model result coincides with the utilitarian equilibrium:
J JyJ
= Hg 1 ( 1 )
g S = Hg 1 y1 J
J J
J

Lobbying: can be inuenced by lobbying contributions

Bruno Amable (Paris I)

Probabilistic voting

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Groups may or may not be organised in a lobby:


OJ =

1 if income group J is organised


0 otherwise

Per-member campaign spending (Nonnegative) of group J to party P


is dened as CPJ where P = A; B
Group J spends:
J CPJ O J =

J CPJ if income group J is organised


0 otherwise

Bruno Amable (Paris I)

Probabilistic voting

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Party P receives then CP = J J CPJ O J


Organised groups contribute to the campaign of either of the two
parties A or B
Candidates use contributions CA , CB by lobbies for campaign
spending to raise their relative popularity in the electorate:
=e
+ h (CB CA )
e
is unobservable and realised just before the election, drawn with
1
1
equal probability from
2 , 2
h (CB

CA )

Bruno Amable (Paris I)

0 party B becomes relatively more popular


0 party A becomes relatively more popular

Probabilistic voting

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Timing of events

2
3
4
5

Parties announce their electoral platforms gA , gB simultaneously and


noncooperatively. They know F( ), i.e. the income distribution which
is the distribution of policy preferences for g in the Poor, Middle, and
Rich classes. They know the voter-specic distribution of ideology iJ
, and the distribution of population ideology e
, but they do not know
yet their realised values.
Contributions of organised groups are donated to A and B
Actual value of e
is realised; iJ is realised; uncertainty is resolved
Elections are held

Elected candidate implements announced policy platform

Bruno Amable (Paris I)

Probabilistic voting

2011

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Swing voter
J

= W J (gA )
= W J (gA )

W J (gB )
J

W (gB )

party A wins the election when


pA

= Pr A
=
=

h (CB

CA )

1
j
2

n
h
io
1
J
J
J
+

W
(
g
)
W
(
g
)
h
C
C
(
)
A
B
B
A
2 J =P
,M ,R
(
)
h
i
1
J
J
J
+
W (gA ) W (gB ) h (CB CA )
2
J =P ,M ,R

group J chooses its contributions to electoral campaigns of either A or


B with the objective of maximising the expected gain
Bruno Amable (Paris I)

Probabilistic voting

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Expected gain is utility its members derive from the election, given by
pAhW J (gA ) + (1 ipA ) W J (gB ) minus the cost of contributions
2
2
1
CAJ + CBJ
2

voter-specic party preference iJ plays no role in the decision of


which candidate will be supported. The lobby maximises the average
utility of its members and expected voter-specic ideology E[ iJ ] is
always zero (due to symmetric ideology distributions around the point
of origin).

Bruno Amable (Paris I)

Probabilistic voting

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F.O.C.

Since

p A
C AJ

pA h J
W (gA)
CAJ

W J (gB )

= hJ , the FOC becomes


CAJ

h
hJ W J (gA )

CAJ

W J (gB )

Symmetry of the problem ) if CBJ = 0, then CAJ > 0

Bruno Amable (Paris I)

Probabilistic voting

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Party A anticipates lobby contributions CA it receives from all three


income groups
(
)
h
i
1
+
pA =
J W J (gA ) W J (gB ) h (CB CA )
2
J =P ,M ,R

=
=
=

1
+
2
1
+
2
1
+
2

J =P ,M ,R J W J (gA ) W J (gB )
h CB J =P ,M ,R J CAJ O J

J =P ,M ,R J W J (gA ) W J (gB )
h CB J =P ,M ,R J hJ W J (gA ) W J (gB ) O J
)
h
i
J W J (gA ) 1 + J hJ + ...

J =P ,M ,R

Bruno Amable (Paris I)

Probabilistic voting

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Party A will maximise J =P ,M ,R J W J (gA ) 1 + J hJ w.r.t. gA


If all groups are of the same size and organised
(J = , O J = 1, J = P, M, R) or of the same size and not organised
(O J = 1) equilibrium is the utilitarian equilibrium
With W J (gA ) = (y

1
pA = +
2

J =P ,M ,R

Bruno Amable (Paris I)

gA ) yy + H (gA ), pA becomes

J (y

h
i
yJ
gA )
+ H (gA ) 1 + J hJ + ...
y

Probabilistic voting

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F.O.C.

pA
= 0 () J
gA
J =P ,M ,R

J =P ,M ,R

h
i
yJ
+ Hg (gA ) 1 + J hJ = 0 ()
y

h
i
J 1 + J hJ Hg (gA ) =

Bruno Amable (Paris I)

Probabilistic voting

J =P ,M ,R

i
yJ h
1 + J hJ
y

2011

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The chosen policy is therefore

gA

= Hg

= Hg

"

1 J =P ,M ,R J y J 1 + J hJ
y J =P ,M ,R J [1 + J hJ ]

yb
= gL
y

Party B chooses the same policy


J y J [1 +J hJ ]

yb = y1 J =P ,M ,R J [1 +J hJ ] is lobbying-weightedincome
J =P ,M ,R

Bruno Amable (Paris I)

Probabilistic voting

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weights reect group size and whether or not the group is organised.
Organised groups receive greater weights and equilibrium is tilted
towards their groups bliss point which is determined by their income.
This only holds if not all groups are organised.
In comparison with the result of probabilistic voting, gS converges to
the bliss point of groups with many swing voters (high J ), these
have more political power for the election outcome
Lobbying equilibrium: more political power of group J through
campaign contributions in cash and kind
As candidates seek only election victory, and groups organised in
lobbies can help them achieve this goal by nancing their campaigns,
both parties bias their policy platforms towards the direction desired
by the lobbies i.e. the organised groups.

Bruno Amable (Paris I)

Probabilistic voting

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