MAASTRICHT. Imagine that you have been voting for the Liberals for years. This time, however, you fear that – if they become the largest party in the elections – they will form a coalition with a party you don’t like. To prevent this you vote for the Democrats, even though you agree more with the Liberals’ programme. Voting strategically instead of voting for the party of your preference, is it useful? Can an individual manipulate the elections? Econometrics student Lise Adriaanse studied this in her Marble research.
“There are so many different methods that can be used when organising an election,” says Adriaanse. “In the Eurovision Song Contest, for example, each country awards twelve points to the candidate they deem best, to the next ones ten, eight, etc. In political elections, everyone has one vote and this counts as one ‘point’.”
Adriaanse studied which method was least manipulable. “In the beginning my supervisor Ton Storcken and I were a little too ambitious. I wanted to compare a whole series of different methods, but seven weeks was not enough time to do so.” That is how it became a comparison between two methods, one in which voters can cast a positive and a negative vote (on your least favourite candidate), and another in which voters can cast one vote on their favourite candidate. “We based this exploratory research on only three candidates.”
Prior to beginning, Adriaanse thought that the first model would be easier to manipulate. “After all, more votes are cast, a negative and a positive, yielding two possibilities for manipulation.” Having made calculations using a formula in which she continuously changed the votes to see if the result ensued, this appeared to be correct. The ‘one vote = one point’ method was less manipulative. “Provided the winner has an absolute majority, so more votes or equal to the votes obtained by all other candidates together. In that case, it makes no difference how the other votes are divided up.” Exactly how it is in other situations can be studied in a follow-up research, but Adriaanse suspects that this method will still be less manipulative. “This result points in that direction too.”
The econometrics student enjoyed doing the research. So much so that she is now, during her work placement with the Dutch Embassy in Buenos Aires, doing research again. “I am just completing a study at the moment about the influence that Dutch companies have (had) concerning the tremendous growth of the soya and grain sector in Argentina. In addition I will start my own research on the opportunities of Dutch companies in the Creative Industries sector in Argentina.”