[EM] Majority-Judgement using adjectives versus alphabetical scales versus numerical ranges.

Ted Stern araucaria.araucana at gmail.com
Fri Dec 7 12:30:43 PST 2012

On 07 Dec 2012 08:13:09 -0800, Jameson Quinn wrote:
> I tend to favor letter grades for MJ. Since the MJ (or CMJ)
> tiebreaker itself assigns plusses and minuses, you can simply use
> the letters A,B,C,D,F. That's only 5 categories; if you wanted 6,
> you could add an explicit "A+" option, because without that the
> tiebreaker could never assign a + to the highest grade.

Hi Jameson,

Balinski and Laraki make a very clear argument about why Majority
Judgment should use named grades instead of letters or numbers:  they
are trying to avoid implicit ranking.

The only way we know how to avoid Arrow's Paradox of irrelevant
choices is to use an evaluative method.  Once you start comparing one
candidate against another, you swerve into Arrow's territory.

Also, as noted many times before (for at least 15 years), median
rating methods can fail dramatically when there are too many scales.
However, with a moderately compressed scale, there is still room for

In my mind, the key advantage of median rating is that it reveals the
electorate's aggregated approval threshold as an emergent property,
without forcing voters to make the choice for themselves.

> I understand Andy's "grade inflation" criticism of using the school
> grading system. However, I don't think it's a problem, for a couple
> of reasons. For one, if you're starting from a two-party system,
> people will have enough time to get used to a common social
> understanding of what the grades mean for voting, before there are
> enough parties for mistakes to make much of a difference. For
> another, a moderate amount of grade inflation is actually a good
> thing. I personally have never seen a president whom I'd rate above
> a D+ or C- on an absolute scale (or at best "poor" in verbal terms),
> and never seen even a third-party candidate whom I'd give more than
> a B- ("fair"), but I still think it would be in my interest to give
> out A's and B's. And as a society, it's even more in our interest
> that people don't fall too easily into giving exsessive F's in a
> chicken dilemma situation.
> Also, using single letters makes ballot design significantly
> easier<http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Sample_ballot_for_Majority_Judgment_(SF).png>
> .
> So I support letter grades, but I certainly don't want to fight
> about it.  Whatever option has more support, I'm with that one.

If you're after simplicity, you can combine the two approaches:

At the top of the ballot, B&L encourage voters to give their sincere
rating, on an absolute scale.

Then you show how to evaluate each candidate on a scale, explicitly
defining the letter grades.  For example:

   AA = Excellent
   A  = Very Good
   B  = Good
   C  = Fair (or Adequate)
   D  = Poor (or Inadequate)
   F  = Reject (AKA Don't Know or Don't Want)

Then you can use the shortened letter grades instead of the full


> Jameson
> 2012/12/6 Andy Jennings <elections at jenningsstory.com>
>> I'm in the U.S.  Even here, where the standard educational scale is
>> alphabetical, I much prefer actual adjectives for the grades:
>> Excellent, Very Good, Good, Fair, Poor, Reject
>> MJ works best when the voters, as much as possible, have a shared
>> understanding of the actual meaning of the grades.  With grading curves and
>> grade inflation, I feel that the A-F scale is not good enough as a "common
>> language" across our culture anymore.
>> ~ Andy
>> On Thu, Dec 6, 2012 at 2:54 PM, ⸘Ŭalabio‽ <Walabio at macosx.com> wrote:
>>>         ¡Hello!
>>>         ¿How fare you?
>>>         Yesterday, I noted that Majority-Judgements does not work if we
>>> have too many adjectives because we have only so many adjectives and voters
>>> might confuse adjectives too close in meaning..  ¿Would an alphabetical
>>> scale be acceptable?:
>>>         In the United States of America, we grade students using letters:
>>>         A+
>>>         A
>>>         A-
>>>         B+
>>>         B
>>>         B-
>>>         C+
>>>         C
>>>         C-
>>>         D+
>>>         D
>>>         D-
>>>         F+
>>>         F
>>>         F-
>>>         I have 2 questions grading candidates on this scale.  1 question
>>> is for people not in the United States of America.  The other question is
>>> for everyone:
>>>         People outside the United States of America:
>>>         ¿Do you Understand this Scale?
>>>         For everyone:
>>>         ¿Is this scale acceptable to you?
>>>         Followup question:
>>>         If this scale is not acceptable to you, ¿why is it not acceptable
>>> to you?
>>>         With 15 grades, this scale is not very different from the
>>> numerical ranges of 0 to 9 or negative -9 to positive +9.  This raises the
>>> question:
>>>         ¿Why not just use the ranges 0 to 9 or negative -9 to positive +9
>>> instead?
>>>         ¡Peace!
>>> --
>>>         “⸘Ŭalabio‽” <Walabio at MacOSX.Com>
>>> Skype:
>>>         Walabio
>>> An IntactWiki:
>>>         http://circleaks.org/
>>>         “You are entitled to your own opinion, but you are not entitled
>>> to your own facts.”
>>>         ——
>>>         Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan
>>> ----
>>> Election-Methods mailing list - see http://electorama.com/em for list
>>> info
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