Extreme appeal: voters trust extreme positions more than moderate ones, study finds

Aug 08, 2008

Trying to appear moderate is not always the best strategy for capturing votes during an election, reveals a new study. Extreme positions can build trust among an electorate, who value ideological commitment in times of uncertainty.

"The current political advantage of the Republican Party stems from the ability of its candidates to develop 'signature ideas.' This strategy is rewarded even when the electorate has ideological reservations," says University of Southern California economist Juan Carrillo, adding that this poses a challenge for the Democrats.

In the current issue of The Economic Journal, Carrillo and Micael Castanheira of the Université Libre de Bruxelles (Belgium), show that voters who are unsure about the quality of a policy can be swayed by indications of trustworthiness.

As Carrillo explains, many tend to believe that a candidate's platforms should be tailored to appeal to voters, particularly swing voters. Instead, this research shows that instead of swinging voters, candidates should try to swing ideas by offering higher-quality positions that may be less popular.

In the United States, holding strong positions has already been shown to work on a few issues that have an ideological component, such as abortion and the death penalty, Carrillo notes.

"A rational electorate is reluctant to support someone who does not exhibit commitment to some ideology," Carrillo says. "Voters rightly perceive that someone without ideological commitment cannot have developed a valuable political program. They reason that, 'If you tell me what I want to hear, it probably means that you don't have any ideas of your own to share.'"

Carrillo and Castanheira's paper is an important challenge to the widely accepted median voter theorem. In the median voter theorem, voters who are fully informed will use their understanding when casting a ballot, choosing the platform that is closest to their own beliefs. Thus, it stands to reason that to attract the majority of votes, parties should try to appeal to the majority of voters.

But, as the researchers point out, it is rare for a voter to be fully informed in real life. More likely, voters will have incomplete and sometimes inaccurate information about how left-leaning or right-leaning stances actually translate into high quality proposals for, say, withdrawing troops safely or reforms.

This information comes from the press and other sources, such as campaign advertisements.

"To attract a majority of votes, parties cannot simply try to appear 'median.' Quite the contrary," Carrillo says. "Winning an election is generally about crafting a convincing philosophy that the electorate will view as superior to that of the opponents."

The researchers point to several real-life examples, including the 1995 Belgian election. According to the authors, the VLD – a traditionally right-wing party – sought the opinion of voters on a number of key issues and pledged to follow popular will if elected. The experiment failed. Four years later, the VLD returned to a rightist platform, and their candidate was elected prime minister.

Source: University of Southern California

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not rated yet Aug 08, 2008
I can't wait till we finally let science run the country! Politicians have to be locked in labor camps to pay their debt to the society.
not rated yet Aug 08, 2008
The Mathematical Impossibility of Compromise

4 / 5 (1) Aug 08, 2008
The Mathematical Impossibility of Compromise


What a complete, total, utter load of crap. We'll leave aside the slight hitch that compromises demonstratably and empirically *do* work (conflicts between dogma and reality always go to reality), and just concentrate on the verbiage.

First, I immediately distrust any tract that does its best to snow the reader instead of trying to clarify the ideas presented. This one certainly is trying very hard to convey the idea "I'm so good at math you can't possibly understand, but take my word for it. I'm much smarter than you". *IMMEDIATE* red flag. Then add that the author never bothers to show any reason to believe that his mathematical model actually successfully models real life (it doesn't -- see above) -- just makes an unsupported imperative statement and moves on.
Finally, the amazing number of emotionally-laden hot-button words in what tries to present itself as a reasoned argument -- all of which make the author's own political stance painfully obvious -- pretty much guarantee that this is little more than the product of a bafflegab-generator.
not rated yet Aug 08, 2008
To each his own. It, the essay, is as entertaining as a novel to me. I know what my IQ and maths are, while you would disparage someone else's. Rhetorically, what's yours? I have a pretty good idea what is Schwartz's.


The fact that you didn't recognize the author or acknowledge his notoriety suggests other interests
not rated yet Aug 08, 2008

Create a multidimensional compromise space. Choose a variable, normalize it on a scale of 1 through zero to -1 inclusive.


Each normalized line is assigned its own dimension and is appended orthogonal to all prior lines. The zero centers of all lines coincide as a common origin. N variables then create a filled N-dimensional unit hypersphere, a closed N-hyperball, with each line being one of its diameters (each variable being wholly independent of all the others).


If we have n coordinates, each of which belongs to [-1,1] we have the equation for an n-dimensional 'filled' hypercube.

As N, the number of variables, increases the number of compromise choices of all kinds shrinks toward zero. A large multi-variable problem has asymptotically no solutions at all much less a menu of nice compromise solutions.

2. By N=10, 89.3% of the volume is within 20% radius of the surface. Almost every choice is a draconian imposition.

3. By N=20, 98.8% of the volume is within 20% radius of the surface, and the overall volume - the summation of choices available - is essentially zero. There is no compromise possible. The few choices remaining are fanatic.

But it's not a multivariate problem. It's lots of independent low order multivariate or single variate problems.

Extremism is defined by human wants and social customs; it is not defined by distance from the origin. Disallowing ethnic cleansing under any circumstance is a very conventional position; only a few extremists hold the position that ethnic cleansing is OK some times.

Most "compromising" is not the center, it is an average(often the median, but it depends on how the compromise is created) of the wishes of the parties involed in the compromise.
not rated yet Aug 11, 2008
Rhetorically, what's yours? I have a pretty good idea what is Schwartz's.

The fact that you didn't recognize the author or acknowledge his notoriety suggests other interests

The fact that you completely ignored my arguments and based your entire rebuttal on attempts at personal attacks says everything I need to know about you.

And I didn't disparage the author's IQ. I didn't even reference it. Can you say "straw man"?

Interestingly, your rebuttal was pretty much all along the lines of "He's probably much smarter than you, so you're probably wrong". Are you sure *you* didn't write this? You can claim to be as brilliant as you want, but your response doesn't support the contention.