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Published August 22, 2017 | Submitted
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Rational Voters and Strategic Voting: Evidence from the 1968, 1980, and 1992 Elections


Is the rational choice paradigm more than a mere tautology when applied to the study of voting or can it generate refutable propositions that cannot be deduced or inferred from other approaches? This is the question we address empirically in the context of three-candidate presidential elections. Although we reconfirm the conclusion that the decision to vote is largely a consumptive one, we also establish that once in the voting booth, voters act strategically in precisely the ways predicted by a Downsian model of voting. That is, although expected utility calculations and the like add little to our understanding of the decision to vote, those same calculations have a significant influence on the decision for whom to vote, over and above such things as partisanship.

Additional Information

We would like to thank Thomas Palfrey, Morgan Kousser and Rod Kiewiet for their encouragement of this research and their suggestions, and we would especially like to acknowledge Keith Poole, not only for his comments and suggestions, but also for his assistance in organizing data from the national ICPSR election studies in an especially useful way. Published as Ordeshook, Peter C., and Langche Zeng. "Rational voters and strategic voting: Evidence from the 1968, 1980 and 1992 elections." Journal of Theoretical Politics 9, no. 2 (1997): 167-187.

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August 20, 2023
August 20, 2023