[EM] Sociological issues of elections

Juho Laatu juho4880 at yahoo.co.uk
Sun Sep 1 14:08:38 PDT 2013

On 1.9.2013, at 22.02, Vidar Wahlberg wrote:

> On Sun, Sep 01, 2013 at 07:05:12PM +0300, Juho Laatu wrote:
>> I tried to outline some scenarios where the voters could more or less directly determine the composition of the coalition. I guess this is too "dynamic" for you, and you actually like the current Norwegian practice where there are two rather fixed government alternatives, and voters know exactly which coalition each candidate/party belongs to?
> I apologize for answering so briefly on your message.

> I find the idea that letting the voters vote for their preferred
> coalition quite interesting

I agee with interesting. But probably they are not very pracical, and probably will not be used. I just wanted to analyze the prospects a bit further on the path taht you seemed to point out. :-)

> And I can't fully
> visualize how such an election would work, and it seems to me that this
> may quickly become a fairly complex system?

Yes. Even the simplest approaches could get quite complex since one can not allow a mechanical algorithm to determine the coalition anyway. Maybe the parties will not agree, and it is not easy to agree what coalition size is optimal etc. So, maybe voter opinions would be used olny as one input in the negotiations.

We can see the sizes of the parties after the election anyway, and we can see which parties lost votes and which ones gained new votes. Based on this we can quite well already see which coalitions are the favourite ones. Explicit voter given information on different coalitions could be just additional opinion poll style information. Maybe a Condorcet poll where different coalition core partner combinatons are listed as candidates. Maybe a poll on one's favourite party and one's favourite second party for the coalition. The latter example is easier since it is easier to agree what the candidates are. But the additional information that these polls would offer is not very essential anyway.

> I don't know how common this is, but before elections in Norway most
> media create tests where the user is presented with several questions
> they answer with how much they agree with, and at the end they're
> presented with which party they agree the most with.

This kind of web services are popular in Finland too.

> If this was how
> people voted for parties then you would effectively eliminate much
> fearmongering and "charisma"-votes, but you'll also introduce several
> other issues (the ideology of the party is lost, and you'll greatly
> simplify problems that may be very complex in nature).

The key problem that I see in the question based polls is that it is very difficult to formulate neutral questions, to find a well balanced set of questions, and also to evaluate the level of agreement and weight of each question. I typically also miss some key questions that I would have liked to answer and hear candidate opinions. Such questionnaires can offer useful additional information to the voters, but I would not pick any single one of them as an election method that does good enough job in analyzing which candidates the voters want to elect. This kind of questionnaires can also be (at least in principle) used to mislead the voters by focusing on certain matters, and making biased questions and answer options (like giving a sunny picture and forcing candidates and voters to agree with topic X, and reverse treatment for topic Y).

> I know the questions is vague and broad, but I hope the issues I'm
> trying to point out is something the readers of this list can relate to.

Questions like how to arrange an election so that voters will get best possible information and where parties can not present too biased views to the voters are very relevant at least to me. One topic that I have sometimes played with, and that has something to do with this discussion is how to complement the quick and vague TV debates with some more concrete questions and answers. One approach is to allow each party to present some written questions to other parties and force the other parties to answer these questions. That alone would give the voters some idea on what the current key differences between different parties are. Just a scratch, but the point is that we could force the discussions to be more exact, not only marketing stuff, and not only kind of enetertaining first shooter games on TV.


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