[EM] ignoring "strength of opinion"

rob brown rob at karmatics.com
Wed Nov 30 15:17:23 PST 2005

I was thinking about Paul K's statement (in several different threads, hence
my top post) that condorcet elections throw important ballot data away.  I'm
not trying to pick on Paul, but it got me thinking.  Trying to come up with
a way to wrap my head around the concept, I came up with a simplified

Imagine a very simple poll that asks your yes/no opinion on a single issue.
Say the question is "do you think sales tax should be raised by 2%?"

In addition to the "yes / no" check boxes, the ballot designers decided it
might be useful to also ask the question "on a scale of 1-10, how strongly
do you feel about this issue?"

When it comes to tablulation, should the responses to the second question be
taken into account, or should they be ignored?

>From a purely utilitarian point of view (i.e. "greatest happiness"), it
makes a lot of sense to give more weight to the opinions of those who feel
more strongly.  But common sense tells us why this is a bad idea.
Intentionally ignoring this information (or, more likely, not collecting it
in the first place) is the only thing that makes sense....otherwise people
who had any opinion whatsover would have an incentive to vote insincerely,
saying they felt very strongly so as to have the most impact on the outcome.

I believe that condorcet elections intentionally ignore "strength of
opinion" information for the exact same practical reason.  Since there is no
way to avoid collecting some strength of oopinion information (while still
collecting the information we *do* need), we have to consciously,
intentionally ignore that information in the tabulation.  This is NOT a bad

BTW, I think this is also relevant to range voting, which from my point of
view is flawed for the same reason.

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