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Stability and Coordination in Duverger's Law: A Formal Model of Preelection Polls and Strategic Voting

Mark Fey
The American Political Science Review
Vol. 91, No. 1 (Mar., 1997), pp. 135-147
DOI: 10.2307/2952264
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2952264
Page Count: 13
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Stability and Coordination in Duverger's Law: A Formal Model of Preelection Polls and Strategic Voting
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Abstract

This paper investigates the dynamics of the "wasted vote" phenomenon and Duverger's Law. I construct a theoretical model in order to consider how preelection polls serve to inform the electorate about the relative chances of the candidates and how that information acts over time to decrease the support of the trailing candidate. The results shed light on how public opinion polls can aggregate information in the electorate and coordinate voters on the viable candidates in the election. Specifically, I show that in a Bayesian game model of strategic voting there exist non-Duvergerian equilibria in which all three candidates receive votes (in the limit). These equilibria require extreme coordination, however, and any variation in beliefs leads voters away from them to one of the Duvergerian equilibria. Thus, non-Duvergerian equilibria are unstable, while two-party equilibria are not. In addition, I describe how preelection polls provide information to voters about the viability of candidates and can thus be used by voters to coordinate on a Duvergerian outcome.

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