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Political Elections & Game Theory

Article – Disastrous Elections: Predicted by Game Theory

In the Penn Political Review article “Disastrous Elections: Predicted by Game Theory,” Wesley Shaker discusses how recent elections, particularly presidential elections, have been disastrous; not in a sense of judging the character or policies of any given candidate, but in the simple fact that recent elected officials have not been truly representative (in particular, no presidential candidate in 2016 received 50% of the popular vote). Shaker argues that this phenomenon can be explained through game theory using a setup with five independent people, each with different candidate preferences out of five. He shows that when voters are aware of the voting preferences of others, or of typical voting trends, voting results tend towards the two-party system we all know, where candidates that are elected come from one of the two extreme sides of the political spectrum. However, according to his scoring system, these results are actually less representative of the public who voted them in than a moderate candidate would have been. Shaker argues that a more moderate candidate will actually be more representative of the public.

In class, we’ve spoken about two-person game theory setups, but we have not (yet?) extended that to multiple person setups. Shaker’s setup is a good display of how the dynamics between multiple can affect a game, especially when the players are aware of other strategies. As the American political system is developing, citizens who are active in the political system are increasingly aware of the ever-growing voting trends towards extreme candidates on both sides of the aisle, which tracks with Shaker’s theory; as voters in the middle are more aware of the trends of those around them, those voters deviate to vote for the more extreme candidates as well, wanting to have less representation over no representation of their ideas (the concept of “throwing your vote away” on, for example, a third-party candidate). However, when those voters stay in the moderate, the candidates voted in may be more moderate. This game theory model elaborates on what we’ve learned in class to show what a more complex model more display, and the complex strategies that go along with having more players and more strategies to choose from, especially when the players are considering the potential choices of all of the other players in the game with them.


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September 2019