[EM] FW: Approval vs RV and rank methods

MIKE OSSIPOFF nkklrp at hotmail.com
Sat Nov 5 21:46:59 PST 2005

Aside from RV's obvious advantage in familiarity, which is likely to be more 
important than Approval's advantage of greater simplicity, there are 
situations in which RV gives better results, or is fairer to the voter, than 

1. By not requiring all-or-nothing ratings, RV mitigates the effects of poor 
strategy and voter misjudement about the candidates. Better that the 
misinformed voter not vote his misinformation full-strength, as he must do 
in Approval.

2. Sometimes someone doesn't know whether or not to vote for someone in 
Approval. Approval then forces him/her to vote a decisiveness that he/she 
doesn't feel. RV lets the person vote his/her indecisiveness. If you don't 
know, why should you have to decisively vote all or nothing?

Those two advantages are related, of course. But I've been glad to have RV 
in a #2 situation, while, in #1, I'm referring to voters other than me. It's 
a question of not knowing and not feeling like expressing an all-or-nothing 
rating, vs misinformation and strategic misjudement. Different situations, 
but somewhat related.

The above are the reasons why I prefer RV to Approval as a public proposal.

But, other than those situations, other than public elections, Approval is 
probably usually better.

In Approval, as in good rank methods (to a large extent), in public 
elections, a 0-info strategic vote is the same as a sincere vote. In 
Approval, for this purpose, I'm defining a sincere ballot as one that best 
reflects your pairwise preferences. Either way, you should vote for the 
above-mean candidates. I told why on EM a week or so ago.

Well, ok, one other RV advantage for committees and organizations is that, 
if everyone is guaranteed to rate sincerely, then RV more reliably maximizes 
social utility when there are few voters. With more voters, Approval's SU 
roughness averages out.

But strategists can take advantage of sincere voters. Not in Approval, 
where, if it's 0-info, and if we disregard the small-committee effects, 
difficult to apply anyway, there's no difference between sincere and 

And Approval is easier to vote (except for when you can't decide whether to 
vote for something or someone, and RV would let you split the difference). 
Vote in a poll with lots of candidates, and then tell me which is easier. 
Vote in James's EM wiki polls, between 50 voting systems, one by RV and one 
by Approval, and then tell me which is easier.

Approval is easier to count. Sure, the counting-ease difference between 
Approval and RV isn't a decisive consideration, but it's one more advantage 
on top of the others.

Approval has an elegant simplicity unmatched by any other method. And the 
more you examine Approval, the better it is.

None of this contradicts my advocacy of RV over Approval for public 

And, as much as I like Approval, it's true that we're better off without 
incompetent voters being forced to vote their incompetency full-strength, as 
they'd have to do with Approval.

As I said, RV somewhat mitigates that problem. Good FBC-complying rank 
methods, such as MDDA, MDDB, MDD,ER-Bucklin(whole), and MAMPO do a much 
better job of mitigating that problem.

Just a few more comments:

I've said that, for public elections, I prefer the best FBC-complying rank 
methods to Approval. But that's based on practical considerations that apply 
to that particular voting situation.

Approval's beautiful simplicity, and the advantages that you get along with 
that simplicity, make Approval look starkly, basically, naturally, general, 
obvious and right--and makes all the other methods, such as even the best 
rank methods, look contrived and arbitrary in comparison.

One gets the feeling that no one devised or invented Approval. Someone 
merely discovered the obvious. That isn't true of any other method. In that 
way, Approval makes all the other methods look like contrivances, 

I'm not criticizing contaptions. They can be useful, and sometimes even 
necessary. For instance, our voters in public elections might need one.

The voters haven't been tried with Approval, so of course no one can say 
whether they'll be able to give up their lesser-evil when their favorite 
outpolls their greater-evil.  But their behavior so far is not promising in 
that regard. So one can't be very confident when they're forced to vote 
their judgement full-strength, all or nothing. Still, if Approval were 
especially easy to enact, it would certainly be worth a try.

The RV contrivance, as I said, mitigates bad judgement by allowing less than 
full-strength voted preferences. MDDA, MDDB, MDD,ER-Bucklin(whole) and MAMPO 
do even better by making it safe to rank one's lesser-evil below one's 
favorite, thereby casting a full-strength for Favorite over Lesser-Evil, 
while casting a full-strength vote for Lesser-Evil over Greater-Evil.

So we may well need contrivances or contraptions because of a lack of voter 

Someone might object that Approval doesn't receive all the information. No, 
it receives and counts the important information.

But with our voting situation and electorate, there may be a 
pathologically-caused need for more information.

Mike Ossipoff

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