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Bruno Amable

University of Paris I

2011

Probabilistic voting

2011

1 / 47

- 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

2011

2 / 47

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

2011

3 / 47

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

2011

4 / 47

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

2011

5 / 47

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

Probabilistic voting

2011

6 / 47

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

2011

7 / 47

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 .

Probabilistic voting

2011

8 / 47

1

1

popularity takes a value 2

2 , 2 is .

1

1

2 , 2

.Probability that

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

2011

9 / 47

1

ideologyiJ

average popularity

Probabilistic voting

2011

10 / 47

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 )

Probabilistic voting

2011

11 / 47

Timing of events

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.

Probabilistic voting

2011

12 / 47

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

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.

Probabilistic voting

2011

13 / 47

The swing voter divides the income group into two subgroups

Probabilistic voting

2011

14 / 47

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.

Probabilistic voting

2011

15 / 47

CandidatesDecisions

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

Probabilistic voting

2011

16 / 47

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

=

=

1

+ J J

2

h

1

+ J W J (gA )

2

Probabilistic voting

W J (gB )

2011

17 / 47

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

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.

Probabilistic voting

2011

18 / 47

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 >

1

1

= Pr < = +

2

2

Probabilistic voting

2011

19 / 47

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

Probabilistic voting

2011

20 / 47

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

2011

21 / 47

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

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

2011

22 / 47

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

2011

23 / 47

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

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

g

y

g)

) y i + H (g )

y i + H (g )

yi

+ H (g )

y

Probabilistic voting

2011

24 / 47

If W J (gA ) = (y

pA =

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

1 J J J y J

y J J J

= Hg

ye

y

= gB

gS

Probabilistic voting

2011

25 / 47

criterion)

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

ye

y

Probabilistic voting

< Hg 1 ( 1 ) < Hg

1

1

ym

y

ym

y

2011

.If

26 / 47

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

Probabilistic voting

2011

27 / 47

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 ;

budget constraint is G = T

Probabilistic voting

2011

28 / 47

First order condition:

1+

Median-voter result: G m =

1 Yi

G

1

3

G+ 1

Y i ln G

= 0 () G i = 1

Probabilistic voting

Yi

2011

29 / 47

Probabilistic voting

Individual party preferences within group are distributed according to

a uniform distribution with zero mean and unitary density

with zero mean and unitary density:

Probabilistic voting

2011

30 / 47

Identication of the swing voter in each group

i = V i (GA )

Vi (GB )

to

i +

1

1

i = + i i

2i

2

A

V i (GA )

Vi (GB ) i i

V i (GA )

Vi (GB ) i i

i i +

Probabilistic voting

i

2

1

+

2

2011

31 / 47

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

1

+

GA 2

1

max +

GA 2

max

V i (GA )

Yi

Vi (GB ) i i

GA + 1

Y i ln GA i i

Probabilistic voting

Vi (GB ) i i

i

2011

32 / 47

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

Probabilistic voting

2011

33 / 47

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

2011

34 / 47

Lobbying models

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

Probabilistic voting

2011

35 / 47

Probabilistic model result coincides with the utilitarian equilibrium:

J JyJ

= Hg 1 ( 1 )

g S = Hg 1 y1 J

J J

J

Probabilistic voting

2011

36 / 47

OJ =

0 otherwise

is dened as CPJ where P = A; B

Group J spends:

J CPJ O J =

0 otherwise

Probabilistic voting

2011

37 / 47

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 )

0 party A becomes relatively more popular

Probabilistic voting

2011

38 / 47

Timing of events

2

3

4

5

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

Probabilistic voting

2011

39 / 47

Swing voter

J

= W J (gA )

= W J (gA )

W J (gB )

J

W (gB )

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

B with the objective of maximising the expected gain

Bruno Amable (Paris I)

Probabilistic voting

2011

40 / 47

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

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).

Probabilistic voting

2011

41 / 47

F.O.C.

Since

p A

C AJ

pA h J

W (gA)

CAJ

W J (gB )

CAJ

h

hJ W J (gA )

CAJ

W J (gB )

Probabilistic voting

2011

42 / 47

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

Probabilistic voting

2011

43 / 47

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

gA ) yy + H (gA ), pA becomes

J (y

h

i

yJ

gA )

+ H (gA ) 1 + J hJ + ...

y

Probabilistic voting

2011

44 / 47

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 ) =

Probabilistic voting

J =P ,M ,R

i

yJ h

1 + J hJ

y

2011

45 / 47

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

J y J [1 +J hJ ]

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

J =P ,M ,R

Probabilistic voting

2011

46 / 47

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.

Probabilistic voting

2011

47 / 47

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