[EM] Why the concept of "sincere" votes in Range is flawed.

Juho Laatu juho4880 at yahoo.co.uk
Sat Dec 6 15:04:04 PST 2008

--- On Fri, 5/12/08, Abd ul-Rahman Lomax <abd at lomaxdesign.com> wrote:

> > > > One approach to sincerity is to compare
> voter
> > > behaviour to the requested behaviour. In Approval
> if the
> > > request is to mark all candidates that one
> approves then
> > > placing the cutoff between two main candidates is
> often
> > > insincere..
> > 
> > ("Insincerely" is not the best word here
> since
> > that carries a meaning "morally wrong". I
> could
> > have said e.g. "Not based on the sincere opinion
> > only".)
> The problem here, Juho, is that "sincere opinion"
> is not the basis for voting,..

What is the alternative basis?

> Approval

> It gets tricky only in the
> situation that there are three frontrunners.

You could say "more than two" here.

> "Sincere expression" here means, "expressing
> some preferences sincerely, and expressing no preferences
> insincerely." It means no preference reversal.

Definition "sincere expression" = "no
preference reversal" is not very intuitive
to me.

> > All I need is clear definitions and terms for
> > various levels of strategic behaviour. A
> > generally used term for the starting point is
> > "sincere opinion". That refers to the
> > independent internal preferences of the
> > voters. After that there are different levels
> > of strategic/optimized/... behaviour.
> Sincere opinion isn't very expressive. However, we
> could take it to mean absolute utilities.

That expression works too.

> That does
> automatically translate into preferences, if you know the
> utilities, the preferences should follow, so we can then
> talk about "sincere preferences,"


> > 1) Sincere opinion
> > 2) Sincere opinion modified as requested (e.g.
> > normalize ratings to full scale so that all
> > voters will have roughly the same weight)
> No ballot requests this. It's been proposed, sometimes,
> that ballots automatically be normalized.

I didn't refer to automatic normalization here
but only to voter using both min and max values
since the society thinks this is the way one
should (typically) vote.

> > 3) Optimize vote as requested (e.g. place the
> > approval cutoff between some of the front runners)

> Your decision is going to be faced on two factors: sincere
> opinion, i.e, underlying ratings, comparatively for all the
> candidates, and your judgment of what to accept, what
> candidates to help win. It is your choice, your decision,
> and your responsibility. There is no "request."
> Not from the system.

In Approval the cutoff placement related
request/recommendation/advice could come via
the media or via the election organizes. The
point was that there exists a commonly known
friendly advice (from whatever direction) to
guide the voter to cast an "optimized" vote.

> I wouldn't start with "sincere opinion,"
> it's far too difficult. I'd start with the
> frontrunners, with the set of candidates who might win.

There is one fundamental difference between
these two cases. The voter either takes or
does not take into account the opinions of
other voters and how the voting method works.
Both are possible scenarios. In the scale that
I presented this is case 1 vs. cases 3, 4, 5
and 6.

> Usually there are just two frontrunners

True in two-party countries. In multiparty
countries having more than two potential
winners (=frontrunner?) is very normal (I'm
used to about 3.25).

> some authors
> "improved" the definition of strategic voting to
> include, it's a little unclear to me, however one sets
> an approval cutoff. It's strategic in the sense that one
> does it better if one knows and uses expected outcome for
> the election.

Yes. Not a bad definition. Here "method and
environment information based optimization
of the vote" = "strategy".

>  4) Optimize vote as well as possible but within
> > generally accepted limits (e.g. exaggerate in
> > Range as much as you can)

> It's only when
> we assume that they are "supposed to be" sincere
> ratings, whatever that is, that we can even talk about
> "exaggeration."

I didn't assume that votes are "supposed to be"
sincere. I only assumed that we can tell what
the difference between "sincere" (unmodified)
and "exaggeration" is.

> > 5) Optimize vote beyond generally accepted limits
> > (e.g. try to bury in Condorcet)
> Again, no such limit exists. It's not illegal.

The limit is the moral code of the society.
Here it is not yet illegal, but in point 6
that may be the case.

> Strategic voting, in general, is voting to improve the
> outcome over what one expects if one votes
> "sincerely." It is not a bad thing,...

In definition 5 the assumption was that the
society does not generally approve this level
of strategic voting.

> > 6) Optimize results beyond what is allowed (e.g.
> > vote twice)

> Hadn't thought of that. Since it's illegal, it
> would indicate very strong absolute preference. My
> suggestion: toss the offender in the clink, but count the
> vote. It will probably improve results.... (For this to
> work, it has to remain illegal, for only if it is illegal
> would it represent true strong preference, deserving of the
> extra vote. Nice paradox, eh?)

Usually elections follow the one-man-one-vote
principle. But one could of course also measure
the level of adrenaline of each voter to
determine the the weight of each ballot :-).

> > I'm quite used to use term "strategic"
> to refer
> > to all technical changes in the vote that make
> > the vote different to one's sincere opinion. Term
> > "sincere" is often used to refer
> (technically) to
> > the "sincere opinion" or resulting
> "sincere vote".
> Yes, it's being used that way. But it used to refer
> only to preference reversal. There was no question of
> "exaggeration."

I have always thought "strategy" to refer to
any kind of modification of one's vote (or
nomination or whatever) to achieve better

> Consider this: Range voting is equivalent to giving every
> voter 100 ballots, say. Now the voter votes, one vote at a
> time, across the candidate set. "Vote," here,
> means complete an approval ballot. Each ballot is sincere,
> i.e., the candidates, on each ballot, are divided into two
> sets, with every member of one set being preferred to every
> member of the other. We can, then, reasonably call each
> ballot "sincere."
> This is not "sincere opinion," which implies some
> absolute approval status for each candidate. There is no
> such status, it is the voter's option where to set the
> approval cutoff.
> Now, the voter does this 100 times. But the voter sets the
> approval cutoff in different places -- or does not. We now
> have a collection of 100 sincere votes from the voter. Each
> one represents a sincere opinion as described, an opinion
> that every candidate in the voted-for set is better than
> every candidate in the other set.
> Does an opinion become insincere by being repeated? Or by
> not being repeated?

If the sum of the Approval votes equals the
"absolute utilities" then I'd say that the
vote follows the "sincere opinion"
(="absolute utilities"). Anything beyond that
could be based on strategic considerations.

If the ballots are seen as separate
independent votes (that makes counting of
the sum irrelevant) then I'd expect all the
ballots to be identical, and cutoff location
not to be based on strategic considerations.

> > Any terms are ok as long as there is a common
> > understanding of their meaning. Neutral and
> > descriptive terms are better than confusing ones
> > and ones with hidden meanings (or ones that are
> > planned to present some particular viewpoint in
> > better or worse light than others).
> That's right. The problem with "sincere" is
> that it is a totally loaded term.

Yes, many terms are, unless we use some pure
abstractions like "alpha" and "beta" (well,
also here "alpha" seems to represent the
primary choice and "beta" the secondary
choice). In scientific discussions one should
try to separate theoretical (unloaded) use of
real life terms from loaded (regular English
language real life) use of them.



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