The virtue of the Condorcet method is its ability to eliminate the
pressure on voters to vote to defeat the least desirable candidate
rather than reveal their true preferences, by allowing voters to rank
the candidates (like Instant Runoff Voting) and by refusing to
eliminate the candidate with the least first choices (unlike Instant
Runoff Voting).

That Ralph Nader turned out to be the Condorcet Winner in 2000 shows
how unusual the 2000 election was, according to Bruce C. Burden:

*****   Two common methods are majority and plurality rule.  Majority
rule would have failed in 2000 because no candidate won 50% of the
popular vote.  And plurality rule would have elected Gore as he
clearly won the popular vote.  And neither majority nor plurality
rule is more natural than or superior to more complicated methods. .
. . [T]he Founders chose to create the Electoral College to choose
presidents. Bush won the 2000 election because he won a majority of
electoral votes, after a serious of legal battles in Florida held him
over the 270 required for victory.  One might wonder whether this
rather unique method of election selected the same winner that other
aggregation schemes might or whether Bush's victory was idiosyncratic
to the particular set of institutions and events that put him into

One of the most stringent methods of selecting a candidate was
proposed by the Marquis de Condorcet more than 200 years ago.  The
Condorcet criterion is a desirable method of choosing among multiple
candidates because it sets the threshold of victory high.  Condorcet
argued that a winning alternative ought to be capable of defeating
all other alternative in head-to-head comparisons.  That is, A should
be the victor only if she beats both B and C in paired situations. .
. .

National Election Study data from 2000 make it possible to conduct a
crude analysis of strategic voting.  I follow a long line of research
that uses rankings of the candidates on the traditional "feeling
thermometers" as estimates of the relative ordinal utilities each
person has for each candidate.  Thermometers are reasonable proxies
for respondents' utilities for the candidates and predict the vote
well (Abramson et al. 1992, 1995, 2000; Brams and Fishburn 1983;
Brams and Merrill 1994; Kiewiet 1979; Ordeshook and Zeng 1997;
Palfrey and Poole 1987; Weisberg and Grofman 1981).  Abramson and
colleagues (1995) show that the winners of the popular and electoral
vote in three notable third party elections -- 1968, 1980, and 1992
-- were all Condorcet winners.  That is, the Electoral College victor
also would have won using Condorcet's standard of beating each of the
other candidates in head-to-head comparisons.  Using their approach,
I have verified that Clinton was easily the Condorcet winner in 1996
as well.

It is reassuring that different voting schemes -- simple plurality
rule, the Electoral College, the Condorcet criterion, and perhaps
even approval voting -- all select the same candidate in each of the
last four elections with significant minor parties (Brams and
Fishburn 1983; Brams and Merrill 1994; Kiewiet 1979).  Indeed, it is
remarkable that every presidential election for which adequate survey
data exist seems to have chosen the Condorcet winner, regardless of
minor party showings.  This is satisfying in part because no voting
method is ideal and the Condorcet method appears to be one of the
most stringent as a Condorcet winner does not even exist in many

The 2000 election is not so tidy.  Not only did George W. Bush not
take the popular vote, but the data clearly show that he was not the
Condorcet winner either.  This is apparently the first time in the
survey era that this has happened.  Moreover, it is quite possible
that the winner of the popular vote -- Al Gore -- was also not the
Condorcet winner.  Examining the pre-election rankings, Nader beats
Buchanan (659-240), Gore (527-500), and Bush (562-491), thus making
him the Condorcet winner.3  Nearly every other method makes Gore the
winner.  Running through the list of voting methods that are commonly
discussed in textbooks on the subject (e.g., Shepsle and Bonchek
1997), Gore wins whether using a plurality runoff, sequential runoff,
Borda count, or approval voting.4  The 2000 election thus represents
a highly unusual event in modern U.S. politics as the Electoral
College and ensuing legal battles surrounding Florida are perhaps the
only method that would result in George W. Bush's election.

("Minor Parties in the 2000 Presidential Election," 2-3,

The main points of Burden's essay is (1) that George W. Bush could
_not_ have won the election by _any_ voting method -- he won only
because of the Supreme Court's intervention and Al Gore's
acquiescence to it; (2) "Bush not only lost the popular vote but was
nearly the Condocet _loser _in head-to-head pairings with each of
other candidates" (Burden, 10); (3) _before 2000_, all actual
presidential election winners were also Condorcet winners (i.e.,
candidates with broad appeal, preferable to the other major and minor
party candidates from the points of view of many of the voters who
did not make them their first choices) in the elections for which
adequate survey data are available, but _in 2000_ neither Gore nor
Bush was the Condorcet winner, an exceptional outcome in modern US
history; and (4) Nader turned out to be the Condorcet winner,
_despite_ the fact that Nader (unlike Ross Perot) was not a centrist
candidate who attracted centrist voters who prefer compromise
candidates and that actual "Nader voters were more liberal,
pro-choice, and educated than other voters on average" and chose
Nader over Gore because they were "discontent with the economy"
(Burden, 1-2, 14) -- "For a voter who is undecided between Gore and
Nader, viewing the current economy as 'poor' rather than 'excellent'
increases his probability of picking Nader from .50 to .79, a change
of nearly 30 percentage points" (Burden, 13).

Comparison of actual votes and true preferences is important, as it
suggests a potential Green Party strategy:

*****   Table 1 demonstrates this by comparing respondents' candidate
rankings along with their vote choice and turnout decisions.  The
data show that nearly all of those who rated Buchanan or Nader as
their most preferred candidates voted for someone else.  Among
voters, over 90% of people who rated Buchanan or Nader highest did
not vote for them. . . .

Table 1: Candidate Rankings, Vote Choice, and Abstention

          Highest Ranked Candidate
          Bush  Gore  Nader  Buchanan

Bush      93.7   6.2  37.6    46.3
Gore       5.8  93.5  52.0    43.9
Nader       .5    .3   9.4     3.5
Buchanan     0     0     0     3.5
Other        0     0   1.0     2.7
Abstain   20.0  25.9  48.1    39.8

Notes: Ranking based on pre-election feeling thermometers as the
post-election thermometers do not include Buchanan.  NES sample
weight used. Ties are omitted.

(Burden, 3-4) *****

The Green Party should think about what is to be done to motivate
those who prefer Nader to actually get to the ballot boxes and vote
for him, rather than think about what to say to win back those who
actually voted for Nader but now regret their vote -- a tiny
minority: "[A]pparently not many Nader voters regret their decisions.
Only 1 in 10 Nader voters say they wish they could change their vote
after knowing how close the election was" (Burden, 4).

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