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 office.
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 settings.
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, <http://psweb.sbs.ohio-state.edu/faculty/hweisberg/conference/burdosu.pdf>) *****
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 Presi- dential Vote Choice
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). -- Yoshie
* Bring Them Home Now! <http://www.bringthemhomenow.org/> * Calendars of Events in Columbus: <http://sif.org.ohio-state.edu/calendar.html>, <http://www.freepress.org/calendar.php>, & <http://www.cpanews.org/> * Student International Forum: <http://sif.org.ohio-state.edu/> * Committee for Justice in Palestine: <http://www.osudivest.org/> * Al-Awda-Ohio: <http://groups.yahoo.com/group/Al-Awda-Ohio> * Solidarity: <http://www.solidarity-us.org/>