Involve: A Journal of Mathematics

  • Involve
  • Volume 4, Number 2 (2011), 139-155.

Cost-conscious voters in referendum elections

Kyle Golenbiewski, Jonathan Hodge, and Lisa Moats

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In referendum elections, voters are frequently required to register simultaneous yes/no votes on multiple proposals. The separability problem occurs when a voter’s preferred outcome on a proposal or set of proposals depends on the known or predicted outcomes of other proposals in the election. Here we investigate cost-consciousness as a potential cause of nonseparability. We develop a mathematical model of cost-consciousness, and we show that this model induces nonseparable preferences in all but the most extreme cases. We show that when outcome costs are distinct, cost-conscious electorates always exhibit both a weak Condorcet winner and a weak Condorcet loser. Finally, we show that preferences consistent with our model of cost-consciousness are rare in randomly generated electorates. We then discuss the implications of our work and suggest directions for further research.

Article information

Involve, Volume 4, Number 2 (2011), 139-155.

Received: 17 September 2010
Revised: 14 February 2011
Accepted: 16 February 2011
First available in Project Euclid: 20 December 2017

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Mathematical Reviews number (MathSciNet)

Zentralblatt MATH identifier

Primary: 91B12: Voting theory

referendum elections cost-conscious separability separable preferences


Golenbiewski, Kyle; Hodge, Jonathan; Moats, Lisa. Cost-conscious voters in referendum elections. Involve 4 (2011), no. 2, 139--155. doi:10.2140/involve.2011.4.139.

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