[EM] ignoring "strength of opinion"

Paul Kislanko kislanko at airmail.net
Wed Nov 30 15:47:20 PST 2005

Rob has pretty much hit the nail on the head.


From: election-methods-bounces at electorama.com
[mailto:election-methods-bounces at electorama.com] On Behalf Of rob brown
Sent: Wednesday, November 30, 2005 5:17 PM
To: election-methods at electorama.com
Subject: [EM] ignoring "strength of opinion"

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?" 
This is kind of improtant, but most pollsters who come up with such a bad
question don't bother. If the original question had been phrased as
""strongly agree, slightly agreee, Neutral, slightly disagree, strongly
disagreee" instead of yes/no it would have provided more information about

When it comes to tablulation, should the responses to the second question be
taken into account, or should they be ignored? 
Igore the answers to the second question at the risk of having the voters
dislike the results. 

>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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