[EM] Nov. 2004 and approval appreciation

James Green-Armytage jarmyta at antioch-college.edu
Sun Sep 11 03:00:15 PDT 2005

Hi folks,

	On the approval vs. IRV question, I used to lean more towards IRV, but
these days I've been leaning more in the other direction. It occurred to
me today that the re-election of George Bush may be partly responsible for
this. First, I don't think that GB should have been re-elected, in that
the anybody but Bush vote was so large and passionate. Furthermore, his
own support was not all that solid, and his victory relied very heavily on
portraying the other candidate as unacceptable, a tactic that would have
much more limited effectiveness if he was facing more than one viable
contender. I think that the strength of the anybody but Bush faction would
have been fatal to his campaign in an approval election, because voters
would be unusually willing to approve compromise candidates whom they
preferred to Bush. 
	If IRV had been used in 2004 however, it's harder for me to imagine Bush
losing. Most likely he would have faced Kerry in the last round, and given
that, the result would not have been much different. Unlike 2000, votes
for third party candidates were not enough to fill the margin between the
top two, so I think that using IRV instead of plurality would not have had
a major impact. As long as the Bush campaign was able to predict whom he
would face in the last round, they would have been able to effectively
target that candidate for attack.
	I'm not saying that Kerry would have won under approval. I seem to
remember reading a poll in the fall of 2004 in which Edwards had the
highest approval score out of the four P/VP candidates. Perhaps Edwards or
someone similar would have won, e.g. Wes Clark or John McCain. I'm not
sure if Kerry was a polar candidate from the beginning (I feel fairly sure
that he didn't set out to be one), but the pressures of a plurality
election (i.e. the strong push toward negative campaigning) may have made
him into one by the end. In an approval election, I imagine that negative
campaigning wouldn't be quite as rampant.
	Anyway, that's my story. I'm not intending to make a partisan point here,
but rather I'm saying that the election seems to illustrate a general type
of scenario in which approval may be more likely than IRV to choose
somewhat less-polar candidates. Of course, this is just anecdote, not
really an analytical argument, but I thought that others might find it
slightly interesting. It may help to explain why I now feel that approval
voting is worth pursuing. 
my best,

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