These are posted on Medium.
Tag: strategic coordination
What is Duverger’s Law?
Most people know it as the observation that plurality elections in single-seat districts tend to come with just two parties. Except that the correlation is weak. As for causation, see Riker (1982):
The direction one must go, I believe, is to turn attention away from the expected utility calculus of the individual voter and to the expected utility calculus of the politician and other more substantial participants in the system. The groups and individuals who buy access and the politicians who buy a future have substantial interests, and it is their actions to maximize expected utility that have the effect of maintaining the two-party system under plurality voting.
So the answer to the question of failure is that third parties are rejected in the rational calculus of expected utility especially by leaders, though also in the calculus by many simple voters. Any adequate theory to subsume Duverger’s law must, I believe, begin there, which is a task for scholars in the next decade.
Very short reading list on parties
NOTE: I wrote this for folks in the ballot-reform community. It is not an exhaustive bibliography.
How strategic coordination (elite cues to voters), not strategic voting (voters trying to figure out who can win), is what to think about when choosing/evaluating an electoral system:
– Cox, Gary. 1997. Making Votes Count: Strategic Coordination in the World’s Electoral Systems. Cambridge University Press.
On elite cues in local politics, despite nonpartisan elections:
– Holman, Mirya R. and J. Celeste Lay. 2020. “Are You Picking Up What I Am Laying Down? Ideology in Low-Information Elections.” Urban Affairs Review, early version.
– Lucas, Jack. 2020. “Do ‘Non-Partisan’ Municipal Politicians Match the Partisanship of Their Constituents?” Urban Affairs Review, early version.
On the tendency of parties and party-like formations to emerge in legislatures, then organize voters (American politics):
– Aldrich, John. 2011. Why Parties? A Second Look. University of Chicago Press.
On the same tendency, but among interest groups (American and comparative politics):
– Bawn, Kathleen, Martin Cohen, David Karol, Seth Masket, Hans Noel and John Zaller. “A Theory of Political Parties: Groups, Policy Demands and Nominations in American Politics.” Perspectives on Politics 10 (3): 571-597.
On the tendency of both pressures (legislative imperatives, interest-group resilience) to ‘re-colonize’ politics in the wake of reform (American politics):
– Masket, Seth. 2016. The Inevitable Party: Why Attempts to Kill the Party System Fail and How they Weaken Democracy. Oxford University Press.
On the existence of legislative parties under local-level nonpartisan elections:
– Burnett, Craig. 2017. “Even city councils with nonpartisan elections can’t escape party politics.” LSE US Centre, December 4 (based on his article in Party Politics).
– Santucci, Jack. 2018. “Evidence of a Winning-cohesion Tradeoff under Multi-winner Ranked-choice Voting.” Electoral Studies 52: 128-138.
On the role of political parties in “linking” voters to government and, by extension, public policy (comparative politics):
– Dalton, Russell J., David M. Farrell, and Ian McAllister. 2011. Political Parties and Democratic Linkage: How Parties Organize Democracy. Oxford University Press.