Strategic voting

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
(Redirected from Tactical voting)

Strategic or tactical voting is a situation where a voter considers the possible ballots cast by other voters in order to maximize their satisfaction with the election's results.[1] For example, in plurality or instant-runoff, a voter may recognize their favorite candidate is unlikely to win and so instead support a candidate they think is more likely to win (a tactic called favorite betrayal or lesser-evil voting).[2]

Gibbard's theorem and the multiwinner Duggan–Schwartz theorem show that no voting system has a single "always-best" strategy, i.e. one that always maximizes a voter's satisfaction with the result, regardless of other voters' ballots. This implies all voting systems can sometimes encourage voters to strategize. However, weaker guarantees can be shown under stronger conditions. Examples include one-dimensional preferences (where the median rule is strategyproof), dichotomous or two-party preferences (where score voting is strategyproof), and group-coalitional strategy (where maximal lotteries are strategyproof).

In large electoral districts, party list methods tend to be difficult to manipulate when using a low-bias apportionment method (like Webster or Huntington-Hill) and no electoral threshold. However, biased apportionment methods can create opportunities for strategic voting, as can small electoral districts (e.g. those used in the single transferable vote).

Common types of strategic voting[edit]

Lesser evil voting (sometimes called compromising. Includes Favorite betrayal criterion, sometimes called decapitation.)
A voter supports the "lesser of two evils" by increasing the rating for a candidate they dislike, in hopes of getting them elected. For example, under first-past-the-post or instant-runoff voting, voters may choose to support an option they believe has a better chance of winning instead of their honest favorite.[3] Duverger's law says that systems vulnerable to this strategy will typically (though not always) develop two party-systems, as voters will abandon minor-party candidates to support stronger major-party candidates.[4]
Most affects: instant-runoff, two-round system, and plurality.[5][4]
Immune: Some Condorcet methods (see favorite betrayal criterion) and antiplurality.
A voter ranks an alternative lower in the hope of defeating it. For example, a voter may insincerely rank a perceived strong alternative last in order to help their preferred alternative win.
Most affects: Borda[6] and Condorcet methods.[6]
Immune: Instant-runoff voting and plurality voting.
Turkey-raising (sometimes called pushover or pied-piper. Includes raiding.)
A voter gives a high rank to a weak (bad) candidate they dislike, but not with the intent of getting them elected. Instead the voter intends the weak candidate to eliminate a strong candidate that would otherwise keep the voter's preferred candidate from winning.[7] Party raiding is a well-known example of such a strategy.[8][9]
Most affects: Borda[6] and multi-round systems like instant-runoff, two-round, and primary elections.[8][10]
Immune: Plurality, antiplurality and most rated voting systems, including score voting and approval voting.
Compression (Includes bullet-voting, exaggeration, and truncation.)
Compression is a strategy where a voter refuses to disclose which of two candidates they honestly prefer (i.e. both candidates are equally-ranked). Compression is unique in that it involves casting a sincere vote, i.e. one that does not lie about which candidate a voter prefers (only "how much" they are preferred).
In its most common form, the strategy involves exaggerating the differences between candidates: all above-average candidates are given perfect scores or ranks, while all below-average candidates are given the lowest possible score. This has the advantage of making it less likely for a disliked candidate to win, but the disadvantage that the winning candidate may not be the one most desired out of the above-average options. Thus, compression of candidates usually only occurs when there is genuinely little preference between them.
Most affects: Rated voting and Condorcet methods that satisfy favorite betrayal.
Immune: Plurality, antiplurality, and random ballot. No deterministic system. (Requiring strict rankings removes the opportunity for compression, but replaces it with opportunities for turkey-raising, lesser-evil voting, and/or burial.)


Tactical voting may occur in isolation or as part of an organized campaign. In the former situation, electors make their own judgement as to the most effective way to (typically) prevent the election of a specific candidate or party. In the latter, one or more parties or groups encourage their supporters to vote tactically in an effort to influence the outcome.

In an example of individuals voting tactically, Labour voters in the 2022 Tiverton and Honiton by-election in the UK tactically supported the Liberal Democrat candidate in order to ensure the defeat of the Conservatives.[11] This resulted in the Liberal Democrats winning what had previously been a Conservative safe seat thanks to a divided anti-Conservative vote.

Organized tactical voting in which a political party mounts a campaign calling on its supporters not to vote for their own favored candidates, but for those of a party which it perceives as more likely to defeat a common opponent, is less common. An example is the 1906 United Kingdom general election, where the Liberals (incidentally, the predecessors of the Liberal Democrats from the previous example) and the then-insurgent Labour Party (founded in 1900) agreed on the Gladstone-MacDonald pact, under which certain Liberal candidates would stand aside in favor of Labour ones, again to ensure that the Conservative candidates would not win on the basis of a split anti-Tory vote.

An intermediate case also exists, where a non-party campaign attempts to coordinate tactical voting, typically with the goal of defeating a certain party. Cases of this include the Canadian Anything But Conservative campaign, which opposed the Conservative Party of Canada in the 2008 and 2015 federal elections, or the Smart Voting campaign organized by Russia's Anti-Corruption Foundation with the goal of opposing and weakening the United Russia party in the 2021 Russian legislative election.

Examples in real elections[edit]


The observed effect of Duverger's law in Canada is weaker than in other countries.[12] In the 1999 Ontario provincial election, strategic voting was encouraged by opponents of the Progressive Conservative government of Mike Harris. This failed to unseat Harris but succeeded in suppressing the Ontario New Democratic Party vote to a historic low.

In the 2004 federal election, and to a lesser extent in the 2006 election, strategic voting was a concern for the federal New Democratic Party (NDP). In the 2004 election, the governing Liberal Party was able to convince many New Democratic voters to vote Liberal to avoid a Conservative government[citation needed]. In the 2006 elections, the Liberal Party attempted the same strategy, with Prime Minister Paul Martin asking New Democrats and Greens to vote for the Liberal Party to prevent a Conservative win. The New Democratic Party leader Jack Layton responded by asking voters to "lend" their votes to his party, suggesting that the Liberal Party was bound to lose the election regardless of strategic voting. This failed to prevent the Conservatives from winning the election, although they did not win a majority of seats.

During the 2015 federal election, strategic voting was primarily against the Conservative government of Stephen Harper, which had benefited from vote splitting among centrist and left-leaning parties in the 2011 election.[13][14] Following the landslide victory of the Liberals led by Justin Trudeau over Harper's Conservatives, observers noted that the increase in support for the Liberals at the expense of the NDP and Green Party was partially due to strategic voting for Liberal candidates.[15]


The two-round system in France shows strategic voting in the first round, due to considerations which candidate will reach the second round.[16]

Stenciling on a Parisian sidewalk ahead of the first round of the 2017 French presidential election invoking "votez utile" (strategic voting) as a reason for voters to vote for François Fillon instead of Emmanuel Macron


The mixed-member proportional representation allows to estimate the share of strategic voters in first-past-the-post voting due to the separate votes for party-lists and local single-winner electoral district candidates. The vote for party-lists is considered sincere if the party vote share is significantly above the 5% electoral threshold in Germany. In Germany the share of strategic voters was found around 30%, which decreased to 9% if only non-allied party candidates were contenders for the electoral district winner.[17] In a contentious election year the share of strategic voters increased to around 45%.

Due to electoral threshold in party-list proportional representation one party asked in several elections their voters to vote for another allied party to help this party cross the electoral threshold.[18]

Hong Kong[edit]

In Hong Kong, with its party-list proportional representation using largest remainder method with the Hare quota, voters supporting candidates of the pro-democracy camp often organize to divide their votes across different tickets, avoiding the concentration of votes on one or a few candidates.[19][unreliable source?][dubious ] In 2016 Hong Kong Legislative Election, the practices of strategic voting were expanded by Benny Tai's Project ThunderGo[citation needed]. The anti-establishment camp gained 29 seats, a historical record.


In Hungary, during the 2018 Hungarian parliamentary election, several websites, such as[20] (meaning "strategic voting"), promoted the idea to vote for opposition candidates with the highest probability of winning a given seat. About a quarter of opposition voters adopted this behavior, resulting in a total of 498,000 extra votes gained by opposition parties. A total of 14 extra single seats were taken by several parties and independent candidates.


In Lithuania, which has a parallel voting system at parliamentary and district levels, most of strategic voting takes place in single-member constituencies (or districts in mayoral elections). These constituencies have two-round system when no candidate wins more than 50 per cent of the votes in the first round. A notable example of strategic voting at the parliamentary level could be the 10th Naujoji Vilnia constituency in 2016 Lithuanian parliamentary election. To prevent independent candidate Algirdas Paleckis' victory, the Liberal Movement's, the Lithuanian Farmers and Greens Union's and the Social Democratic Party's candidates endorsed their supporters to vote for the Homeland Union's candidate Monika Navickienė (who came in second place). Monika Navickienė eventually won the constituency by around 900 votes.[21][22] At a district level, an example could be Kėdainiai district's mayoral election in the 2015 municipal elections. In the first round, the Labour Party won 13 seats of 26 seats in district council and was just one seat short of absolute majority. Nijolė Naujokienė (candidate to the district's mayoral seat from the Labour Party) came short by 0.68 per cent in the mayoral election. Her opponent, Saulius Grinkevičius, had a 22 per cent gap to overcome.[23][24] In the second round, Saulius Grinkevičius won by around 8 per cent (and 1,600 votes).[25]

New Zealand[edit]

Since New Zealand moved to mixed-member proportional representation voting in 1996, the electoral system of New Zealand has seen strategic voting[26] regularly occur in several elections, including one party explicitly or implicitly encouraging voters to vote for a candidate other than theirs. This happened first in 1996 in the Wellington Central, and then in 1999 in the Coromandel. From 1996 until 2005, it was a regular feature in the Ohariu-Belmont electorate,[27] which was won by Peter Dunne throughout its existence and from 2005 in the Epsom electorate which has been won solely by the ACT party since 2005.[28]


In the 2023 Polish parliamentary election, websites like[29] (meaning "We'll chase the PiS") gave information for which voters should vote for in their constituency in order to maximize the chance of the opposition winning the extra seat. The campaign was a success, with PiS losing the majority in the Sejm. At the same time, a referendum with the questions asked in a persuasive way took place, with the oppositing recommending to not take the referendal card.[30] The voter turnout of the referendum is 40%, making it non-binding and merely a suggestion for all the future governments.[31]


According to some media, in the 2011 Slovenian parliamentary election, 30% of voters voted tactically. Public polls predicted an easy win for Janez Janša, the candidate of the Slovenian Democratic Party; however, his opponent Zoran Janković, the candidate of Positive Slovenia, won. Prominent Slovenian public opinion researchers claimed that such proportions of strategic voting had not been recorded anywhere else before.[32]


In the 2016 General Election in Spain, the incentives for voting tactically were much larger than usual, following the rise of the Podemos and Ciudadanos and following the economic crisis and election in 2015.[33] The strategic voters successfully influenced the outcome of the election, despite a record low turnout of 66.5%. In a natural experiment in Andalusia 9% voted strategically when having opportunity, strategic behavior did not increase with time, and did not affect surrounding electoral areas, under the assumption that strategic voting happens only for district magnitude above 5.[34]


In the 1995 Legislative Yuan election, strategic voting was implemented by the opposition parties, such as the Democratic Progressive Party[35] and the New Party.[36] As the members were elected in multi-member districts, the parties urged their supporters to vote for a party-nominated candidate according to criteria, such as the last digit of the voter's National Identification Card Number or the voter's birth month. This maximized the opposition's seat gains and resulted in the ruling Kuomintang losing 10 seats, receiving the lowest share of seats in history at the time.

United Kingdom[edit]

In the 1997 UK general election, Democratic Left helped Bruce Kent set up GROT (Get Rid Of Them) a strategic voter campaign whose aim was to help prevent the Conservative Party from gaining a 5th term in office. This coalition was drawn from individuals in all the main opposition parties, and many who were not aligned with any party. While it is hard to prove that GROT swung the election itself, it did attract significant media attention and brought strategic voting into the mainstream for the first time in UK politics. In 2001, the Democratic Left's successor organisation, the New Politics Network, organised a similar campaign. Since then strategic voting has become a consideration in British politics as is reflected in by-elections and by the growth in sites such as, who encourage strategic voting as a way of defusing the two party system and empowering the individual voter. For the 2015 UK general election, attempted to prevent the Conservative Party staying in government by encouraging Green Party supporters to tactically vote for the Labour Party in listed marginal seats. In 2017 was formed to help supporters of all parties swap their votes with people in other constituencies.

In the 2006 local elections in London, strategic voting was promoted by sites such as London Strategic Voter in a response to national and international issues.

In Northern Ireland, it is believed that (predominantly Protestant) Unionist voters in Nationalist strongholds have voted for the Social Democratic and Labour Party (SDLP) to prevent Sinn Féin from capturing such seats. This conclusion was reached by comparing results to the demographics of constituencies and polling districts.

In the 2017 general election, it is estimated that 6.5 million people (more than 20% of voters) voted tactically[37] either as a way of preventing a "hard Brexit" or preventing another Conservative government led by the Tactical2017 campaign.[37] Many Green Party candidates withdrew from the race in order to help the Labour Party[38] secure closely fought seats against the Conservatives. This ultimately led to the Conservatives losing seats in the election even though they increased their overall vote share.[39]

In the 2019 Conservative Party leadership election to determine the final two candidates for the party vote, it was suggested that front-runner Boris Johnson's campaign encouraged some of its MPs to back Jeremy Hunt instead of Johnson, so that Hunt—seen as "a lower-energy challenger"—would finish in second place, allowing an easier defeat in the party vote.[40] Strategic voting was expected to play a major role in the 2019 General Election, with a YouGov poll suggesting that 19% of voters would be doing so tactically. 49% of strategic voters said they would do so in the hope of stopping a party whose views they opposed.[41]

Recently, in West Oxfordshire, the Liberal Democratic party ensured a loss for the Conservatives by not running, and instead encouraging votes for the Green party. The next election term saw the Green party actively discouraging tactical voting.

According to a 2020 study, older voters in the UK vote strategically more than younger voters, and richer voters vote more strategically than poorer voters.[42]

United States[edit]

Strategic voting in the US's first-past-the-post voting and presidential system contributes to a two-party system, where the observed effect of Duverger's law is stronger than in most countries.[12] One high-profile example of strategic voting was the 2002 California gubernatorial election. During the Republican primaries, Republicans Richard Riordan (former mayor of Los Angeles) and Bill Simon (a self-financed businessman) vied for a chance to compete against the unpopular incumbent Democratic Governor of California, Gray Davis. Polls predicted that Riordan would defeat Davis, while Simon would not. At that time, the Republican primaries were open primaries[citation needed] in which anyone could vote regardless of their party affiliation. Davis supporters were rumored to have voted for Simon because Riordan was perceived as a greater threat to Davis; this, combined with a negative advertising campaign by Davis describing Riordan as a "big-city liberal", allowed Simon to win the primary despite a last-minute business scandal. The strategy to nominate Simon (if in fact it was a reality), was successful, as he lost in the general election against Davis. However, it resulted in the lowest gubernatorial general election turnout in modern California political history, thus requiring fewer signatures to qualify a recall that ultimately ousted Davis.

Similarly, in 2012, Claire McCaskill boosted Todd Akin in the 2012 US Senate election in Missouri. In addition to running ads highlighting Akin's conservative stances, McCaskill also directed messages to surrogates to tell Akin to run ads which would increase his primary polling.[43]

Puerto Rico[edit]

Puerto Rico's 2004 elections were affected by strategic voting. Pedro Rosselló, the New Progressive Party's candidate of that year, was unpopular across much of the territory due to large corruption schemes and the privatization of public corporations. To prevent Rossell from winning, other factions supported the Partido Popular Democratico's candidate. The elections were close; statehood advocates won a seat in the U.S. house of representatives and majorities in both legislative branches, but lost governance to Aníbal Acevedo Vilá. (Puerto Ricans have the chance to vote by party or by candidate. Separatists voted under their ideology but for the center party's candidate, which caused major turmoil.) After a recount and a trial, Acevedo Vilá was certified as governor of the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico.

Rational voter model[edit]

Academic analysis of strategic voting is based on the rational voter model, derived from rational choice theory. In this model, voters are short-term instrumentally rational. That is, voters are only voting in order to make an impact on one election at a time (not, say, to build the political party for next election); voters have a set of sincere preferences, or utility rankings, by which to rate candidates; voters have some knowledge of each other's preferences; and voters understand how best to use strategic voting to their advantage. The extent to which this model resembles real-life elections is the subject of considerable academic debate.

Myerson–Weber strategy[edit]

An example of a rational voter strategy is described by Myerson and Weber.[44] The strategy is broadly applicable to a number of single-winner voting methods that are additive point methods, such as Plurality, Borda, Approval, and Range. The strategy is optimal in the sense that the strategy will maximize the voter's expected utility when the number of voters is sufficiently large.

This rational voter model assumes that the voter's utility of the election result is dependent only on which candidate wins and not on any other aspect of the election, for example showing support for a losing candidate in the vote tallies. The model also assumes the voter chooses how to vote individually and not in collaboration with other voters.

Given a set of k candidates and a voter let:

vi = the number of points to be voted for candidate i
ui = the voter's gain in utility if candidate i wins the election
pij = the (voter's perceived) pivot probability that candidates i and j will be tied for the most total points to win the election.

Then the voter's prospective rating for a candidate i is defined as:

The gain in expected utility for a given vote is given by:

The gain in expected utility can be maximized by choosing a vote with suitable values of vi, depending on the voting method and the voter's prospective ratings for each candidate. For specific voting methods, the gain can be maximized using the following rules:

  • Plurality: Vote for the candidate with the highest prospective rating. This is different from choosing the best of the frontrunners, which is a common heuristic approach to voting. In rare cases, the highest prospective rating can belong to a weak candidate (one with a low probability of winning).
  • Borda: Rank the candidates in decreasing order of prospective rating.
  • Approval: Vote for all candidates that have a positive prospective rating.
  • Range: Vote the maximum (minimum) for all candidates with a positive (negative) prospective rating.

Pivot probabilities are rarely estimated in political forecasting, but can be estimated from predicted winning probabilities. An important special case occurs when the voter has no information about how other voters will vote. This is sometimes referred to as the zero information strategy. In this special case, the pij pivot probabilities are all equal and the rules for the specific voting methods become:

  • Plurality: Vote for the most preferred (highest utility) candidate. This is the sincere plurality vote.
  • Borda: Rank the candidates in decreasing order preference (decreasing order of utility). This is the sincere ranking of the candidates.
  • Approval: Calculate the average utility of all candidates. Vote for all candidates that have a higher-than-average utility; do not vote for any candidates that have a lower-than-average utility.
  • Range: Calculate the average utility of all candidates. Vote the maximum points for all candidates that have a higher-than-average utility; vote the minimum points for all candidates that have a lower-than-average utility; vote any value for a candidate with a utility equal to the average.

Myerson and Weber also describe voting equilibria that require all voters use the optimal strategy and all voters share a common set of pij pivot probabilities. Because of these additional requirements, such equilibria may in practice be less widely applicable than the strategies.

Pre-election influence[edit]

Because strategic voting relies heavily on voters' perception of how other voters intend to vote, campaigns in electoral methods that promote compromise frequently focus on affecting voters' perception of campaign viability. Most campaigns craft refined media strategies to shape the way voters see their candidacy. During this phase, there can be an analogous effect where campaign donors and activists may decide whether or not to support candidates tactically with their money and time.

In rolling elections, or runoff votes, where some voters have information about previous voters' preferences (e.g. presidential primaries in the United States), candidates put disproportionate resources into competing strongly in the first few stages, because those stages affect the reaction of later stages.

Influence of voting method[edit]

Strategic voting is highly dependent on the voting method being used. A strategic vote which improves a voter's satisfaction under one method could make no change or lead to a less-satisfying result under another method. Arrow's impossibility theorem[45] and the Gibbard–Satterthwaite theorem prove that any useful single-winner voting method based on preference ranking is prone to some kind of manipulation. Game theory has been used to search for some kind of "minimally manipulable" (incentive compatibility) voting schemes. Game theory can also be used to analyze the pros and cons of different methods. For instance, when electors vote for their own preferences rather than tactically, Condorcet method-like methods tend to settle on compromise candidates, while instant-runoff voting favors those candidates with strong core support but otherwise narrower appeal due to holding more uncompromising positions.[citation needed]

Moreover, although by the Gibbard–Satterthwaite theorem no deterministic single-winner voting method is immune to strategic voting in all cases, some methods' results are more resistant to strategic voting than others'. Michel Balinski and Rida Laraki, the inventors of the majority judgment method, performed an initial investigation of this question using a set of Monte Carlo simulated elections based on the results from a poll of the 2007 French presidential election which they had carried out using rated ballots. Comparing range voting, Borda count, plurality voting, approval voting with two different absolute approval thresholds, Condorcet voting, and majority judgment, they found that range voting had the highest (worst) strategic vulnerability, while their own method majority judgment had the lowest (best).[46] Further investigation would be needed to be sure that this result remained true with different sets of candidates. Party-list proportional methods show typically less strategic voting,[47] with the exception of electoral thresholds, which cause wasted votes. The method for seat allocation can cause strategic voting, for example D'Hondt method favors large parties.[48]

In particular methods[edit]

Plurality voting[edit]

Strategic voting by compromising is exceedingly common in plurality elections. The most typical tactic is to assess which two candidates are frontrunners (most likely to win) and to vote for the preferred one of those two, even if a third candidate is preferred over both. Duverger's law argues that this kind of strategic voting, along with the spoiler effect which can arise when such tactics are not used, will be so common that any method based on plurality will eventually result in two-party domination. Although this "law" is just an empirical observation rather than a mathematical certainty, it is generally supported by the evidence.[citation needed]

Due to the especially deep impact of strategic voting in such a method, some argue that systems with three or more strong or persistent parties become in effect forms of disapproval voting, where the expression of disapproval in order to keep an opponent out of office overwhelms the expression of approval to elect a desirable candidate.

Two-round voting[edit]

Theoretical results indicate that, under two-round runoff voting with three candidates, strategic equilibria exist in which only two candidates receive votes.[49] It has been shown experimentally that voters are influenced by a candidate's perceived likelihood of winning the election.[50]

Party-list proportional representation[edit]

The presence of an electoral threshold (typically at around 5% or 4%) can lead to voters voting tactically for a different party to their preferred political party (which may be more hardline or more moderate) in order to ensure that the party passes the threshold. An alliance of parties can fail to win a majority despite outpolling their rivals if one party in the alliance falls beneath the threshold. An example of this is the 2009 Norwegian election in which the right-wing opposition parties won more votes between them than the parties in the governing coalition, but the narrow failure of the Liberal Party to cross the 4% threshold led to the governing coalition winning a majority.

This effect has sometimes been nicknamed "Comrade 4%" in Sweden, where the electoral threshold is 4%, particularly when referring to supporters of the Social Democrats who vote tactically for the more hardline Left Party.[51][52] In the 2013 German federal election, the Free Democratic Party got only 4.8% of the votes so did not meet the 5% threshold. The party did not win any directly elected seats, so for the first time since 1949 was not represented in the Bundestag. Hence their ally the Christian Democratic Union had to form a grand coalition with the Social Democratic Party.

In several recent elections in New Zealand the National Party has suggested that National supporters in certain electorates should vote for minor parties or candidates who can win an electorate seat and would support a National government. This culminated in the Tea tape scandal when a meeting in the Epsom electorate in 2011 was taped. The meeting was to encourage National voters in the electorate to vote "strategically" for the ACT candidate; and it was suggested that Labour Party voters in the electorate should vote "strategically" for the National candidate as the Labour candidate could not win the seat but a National win in the seat would deprive National of an ally. The two major parties National and Labour always top up their electorate MPs with list MPs, so a National win in the seat would not increase the number of National MPs.

Even in countries with a low threshold such as the Netherlands, strategic voting can still happen for other reasons. In the campaign for the 2012 Dutch election, the Socialist Party had enjoyed good poll ratings, but many voters who preferred the Socialists voted instead for the more centrist Labour Party out of fear that a strong showing from the Socialists would lead to political deadlock. It was also suggested that a symmetrical effect on the right caused the Party for Freedom to lose support to the more centrist VVD.[53]

In elections which there are many party lists competing with only a few seats, such as Hong Kong Legislative Council election, the outcome will tend to be similar to that of single non-transferable vote (SNTV): only the first candidate in a list will win. In such elections parties will split the candidates into multiple lists, since competing using "remainder" votes in both lists is easier than having "full quota" votes plus "remainder" votes if the party puts their candidates in a single list, and a list reaching "full quota" vote is considered a waste. In such elections the behavior of voters is similar that of SNTV elections: voters will avoid a candidate reaching the "full quota", and spread their votes to other candidates that have potential to win.

Cardinal single-winner voting[edit]

All cardinal voting methods fail the later-no-harm criterion due to favoring consensus options.[54]

Majority judgment[edit]

In majority judgment, strategy is typically "semi-honest exaggeration." Voters exaggerate the difference between a certain pair of candidates but do not rank any less-preferred candidate over any more-preferred one. Even this form of exaggeration can only have an effect if the voter's honest rating for the intended winner is below that candidate's median rating or their honest rating for the intended loser is above it.

Typically, this would not be the case unless there were two similar candidates favored by the same set of voters. A strategic vote against a similar rival could result in a favored candidate winning; although if voters for both similar rivals used this strategy, it could cause a candidate favored by neither of these voter groups to win.

Balinski and Laraki argue that since under Majority judgment, many voters have no opportunity to use strategy, in a test using simulated elections based on polling data, this method is the most strategy-resistant of the ones that the authors studied.[55]

Approval voting[edit]

In approval voting, because the only option is to approve of a candidate or not, optimal strategic voting cannot include ranking a less-preferred candidate over a more-preferred candidate. However, strategy is in fact inevitable when a voter decides their "approval cutoff"; this is a variation of the compromising strategy. Overall, Steven Brams and Dudley R. Herschbach argued in a paper in Science magazine in 2001 that approval voting was the method least amenable to tactical perturbations.[56] Meanwhile, Balinski and Laraki used rated ballots from a poll of the 2007 French presidential election to show that, if unstrategic voters only approved candidates whom they considered "very good" or better, strategic voters would be able to sway the result frequently, but that if unstrategic voters approved all candidates they considered "good" or better, approval was the second most strategy-resistant method of the ones they studied.[46]

Approval voting forces voters to face an initial voting tactical decision as to whether to vote for (or approve) of their second-choice candidate or not. The voter may want to express they prefer their first choice over their second, but doing so does not allow the same voter to express preference of their second choice over any other. This issue manifests in the chicken dilemma, where a subset of voters prefer two front-runner candidates to a third, but cannot agree on which front-runner is preferred. Within the subset, the ideal tactical choice is to only vote for one of the two front-runners, so that they may beat the other and win the race. However, if such a strategy becomes popular, then both candidates lose to the third, disliked candidate.

Score voting[edit]

In score voting, strategic voters who expect all other voters to be strategic will exaggerate their true preferences and use the same quasi-compromising strategy as in approval voting, above. That is, they will give all candidates either the highest possible or the lowest possible rating. This presents an additional problem as compared to the approval method if some voters give honest "weak" votes with middle rankings and other voters give strategic approval votes. A strategic minority could overpower an honest majority. This problem can be minimized through education or ballot design to encourage uninformed voters to give more-extreme rankings. A different path to minimize this problem is to use median scores instead of total scores, as median scores are less amenable to exaggeration, as in majority judgment.

Strategic voters are faced with the initial tactic as to how highly to score their second-choice candidate. The voter may want to retain expression of a high preference of their favorite candidate over their second choice. But that does not allow the same voter to express a high preference of their second choice over any others.

In a simulation study using polling data collected under a majority judgment method, that method's designers found that score voting was more vulnerable to strategy than any other method they studied, including plurality.[46]

Cardinal multi-winner voting[edit]

Evaluative Proportional Representation (EPR) and sequential proportional approval voting reduces strategic voting compared to single-winner voting.[citation needed] Strategic voting is observed for cardinal multi-winner voting.[57]

Ranked single-winner voting[edit]

Instant runoff voting[edit]

Instant runoff voting is vulnerable to push-over and compromising strategies (although it is less vulnerable to compromising than the plurality method). Bullet voting is ineffective under Instant-runoff, since Instant-runoff satisfies the later-no-harm criterion.


The Borda count has both a strong compromising incentive and a large vulnerability to burying. Here is a hypothetical example of both factors at the same time: if there are two candidates the most likely to win, the voter can maximize the impact on the contest between these candidates by ranking the candidate the voter likes more in first place, ranking the candidate whom they like less in last place. If neither candidate is the sincere first or last choice, the voter is using both the compromising and burying strategies at once. If many different groups voters use this strategy, this gives a paradoxical advantage to the candidate generally thought least likely to win.


While IRV and STV generally do not satisfy the Condorcet criterion, Condorcet method variants like Ranked pairs and CPO-STV do.

Condorcet methods have a further-reduced incentive for the compromising strategy, but they have some vulnerability to the burying strategy. The extent of this vulnerability depends on the particular Condorcet method. Some Condorcet methods arguably reduce the vulnerability to burying to the point where it is no longer a significant problem. All guaranteed Condorcet methods are vulnerable to the bullet voting strategy, because they violate the later-no-harm criterion.

Ranked multi-winner voting[edit]

Single transferable vote[edit]

The single transferable vote has a strong incentive towards free riding, a kind of decapitation strategy. If a voter expects their favorite candidate will almost-certainly be elected, insincerely ranking the second candidate first does not hurt the favoured candidate.[58]

Some forms of STV allow strategic voters to gain an advantage by listing a candidate who is very likely to lose in first place, as a form of pushover.[59] This strategy, called Woodall free riding, is essentially eliminated by Meek's method.[60]

In Malta's STV the two-party system can cause strategic voting away from third parties.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Farquharson, Robin (1969). Theory of Voting. Blackwell (Yale U.P. in the U.S.). ISBN 978-0-631-12460-3.
  2. ^ Green-Armytage, James (2014). "Strategic voting and nomination". Social Choice and Welfare. 42 (1). Springer: 111–138. doi:10.1007/s00355-013-0725-3. ISSN 0176-1714. JSTOR 43663746. Retrieved 18 April 2024.
  3. ^ Poundstone, William (2008). Gaming the vote: why elections aren't fair (and what we can do about it) (1. ed.). New York: Hill and Wang. ISBN 978-0-8090-4892-2.
  4. ^ a b Volić, Ismar (2 April 2024). "Duverger's law". Making Democracy Count. Princeton University Press. Ch. 2. doi:10.2307/jj.7492228. ISBN 978-0-691-24882-0.
  5. ^ Hodge, J.K.; Klima, R.E. (2018). "6". The Mathematics of Voting and Elections: A Hands-On Approach. Mathematical World. American Mathematical Society. ISBN 978-1-4704-4287-3.
  6. ^ a b c Monroe, Burt (September 2001). Raising Turkeys: An Extension and Devastating Application of Myerson-Weber Voting Equilibrium (PDF). American Political Science Association.
  7. ^ Matthew S. Cook (March 2011). "Voting with Bidirectional Elimination" (PDF). Voting with Bidirectional Elimination. Archived from the original (PDF) on 20 November 2011. Retrieved 21 April 2012.
  8. ^ a b R. Michael Alvarez; Jonathan Nagler (1999). "Analysis of Crossover and Strategic Voting" (PDF). Society for Political Methodology (American Political Science Association; Washington University in St. Louis). Archived from the original (PDF) on 25 June 2010. Retrieved 21 April 2014.
  9. ^ Negrin, Matt. "Could Democrats Decide the Winner in Michigan?" ABC News, 28 Feb. 2012. Retrieved 9 Dec. 2017.
  10. ^ Issacharoff, Samuel (2007). The Law of Democracy. Thompson West. pp. 276. ISBN 978-1-58778-460-6.
  11. ^ Cecil, Nicholas (24 June 2022). "Sir John Curtice: Tories in trouble but Keir Starmer still missing crucial spark". Evening Standard. Archived from the original on 24 June 2022. Retrieved 24 June 2022. Sir John Curtice, Professor of Politics at Strathclyde University, [...] highlighted how many Labour voters switched to the Liberal Democrats in the Tiverton and Honiton by-election, to topple a Tory majority of 24,000. [...] 'Labour and Liberal Democrat voters are ganging up against the Tories, voting tactically,' he said.
  12. ^ a b Duverger's Law of Plurality Voting The Logic of Party Competition in Canada, India, the United Kingdom and the United States, 2009, André Blais, Bernard Grofman, Shaun Bowler
  13. ^ "Strategic Voting Must Include Casting Your Ballot for the Green Party". The Huffington Post. 18 October 2015.
  14. ^ Tremonti, Anna Maria (Host) (15 October 2015). Federal Election 2015: Strategic voters challenge democracy (Radio broadcast). CBC Radio. Retrieved 22 February 2016.
  15. ^ Press, Jordan (20 October 2015). "Canada Election Result Numbers Show Canadians Voted Strategically: Experts". Huffington Post. Retrieved 22 February 2016.
  16. ^ France's election: 'strategic' voting among Montreal's French citizens, CTV News
  17. ^ On the Extent of Strategic Voting, Jorg L. Spenkuch, 2012
  18. ^ Als die CDU noch Leihstimmen zu vergeben hatte, Christopher Pramstaller, 2013 (German)
  19. ^ ""Legislative Council Election Exit Poll Analysis Article Series" No.2".
  20. ^
  21. ^ "Frontas prieš A.Paleckį Naujojoje Vilnioje: Konservatorę M.Navickienę remia net ideologiniai priešai".
  22. ^ "2016 m. Seimo rinkimų rezultatai -".
  23. ^ "Balsavimo rezultatai".
  24. ^ "Kėdainiai baigia atsikvošėti nuo Viktoro Uspaskicho kerų?".
  25. ^ "Sensacija: Darbo partija prarado Kėdainius".
  26. ^ Smith, Phil (28 August 2017). "Give your vote more oomph- Strategic voting". RNZ.
  27. ^ "Increase in split votes, election figures show". NZ Herald. 8 November 2023. Retrieved 8 November 2023.
  28. ^ "Labour gets tactical with Epsom". NZ Herald. 8 November 2023. Retrieved 8 November 2023.
  29. ^ "Pogonimy PiS!". (in Polish). 14 October 2023. Retrieved 16 October 2023.
  30. ^ Przyborska, Katarzyna (12 October 2023). "Co zrobić z kartą do referendum? Najlepiej nie brać". (in Polish).
  31. ^ Tilles, Daniel (15 October 2023). "Exit poll: Polish government's referendum invalidated by low turnout". Notes From Poland.
  32. ^ "Raziskovalci o anketah: zmagalo taktično glasovanje" [Researchers on the Polls: Tactical Voting Won] (in Slovenian). 12 December 2011. Archived from the original on 25 April 2012.
  33. ^ Stephenson, Laura B., et al., editors. The Many Faces of Strategic Voting: Tactical Behavior in Electoral Systems Around the World. University of Michigan Press, 2018. JSTOR,
  34. ^ Lago, Ignacio (2012). "Strategic voting in proportional representation systems". Party Politics. 18 (5): 653–665. doi:10.1177/1354068810389638. hdl:10230/48115. S2CID 143798201.
  35. ^ 林長志. "立委選舉中民進黨的「聯合競選策略」: 以北高兩市為例". 台灣政治學刊 (in Chinese). 13 (1): 58–60.
  36. ^ TVBS (15 August 2018). "民進黨「懷柔喊話」配票算計高嘉瑜!憂姚文智帶衰議員選舉也垮?少康戰情室 20180815". YouTube (in Chinese). Archived from the original on 14 June 2019. Retrieved 15 August 2018.
  37. ^ a b "General Election 2017: 6.5 million voted tactically on 8 June". Retrieved 5 April 2018.
  38. ^ "Green Party pulls out of crucial general election seat to help Labour beat the Tories". 25 April 2017. Archived from the original on 26 May 2022. Retrieved 5 April 2018.
  39. ^ Cartwright, James; Smith, Lilly (6 May 2018). "Flipping the Script". Design Observer.
  40. ^ "Did Boris's dirty tricks help Hunt over Gove?". Coffee House. 20 June 2019. Retrieved 12 December 2019.
  41. ^ "Who's tactically voting, and why? | YouGov". Retrieved 12 December 2019.
  42. ^ Eggers, Andrew C.; Vivyan, Nick (2020). "Who Votes More Strategically?". American Political Science Review. 114 (2): 470–485. doi:10.1017/S0003055419000820. ISSN 0003-0554. S2CID 210896040.
  43. ^ Mccaskill, Sen Claire (11 August 2015). "How I Helped Todd Akin Win — So I Could Beat Him Later". POLITICO Magazine. Retrieved 3 February 2024.
  44. ^ Myerson, Roger B.; Weber, Robert J. (1993). "A Theory of Voting Equilibria" (PDF). The American Political Science Review. 87 (1): 102–114. doi:10.2307/2938959. hdl:10419/221141. JSTOR 2938959. S2CID 143828854.
  45. ^ Gibbard, Allan (1973). "Manipulation of voting schemes: A general result" (PDF). Econometrica. 41 (4): 587–601. doi:10.2307/1914083. JSTOR 1914083.
  46. ^ a b c Balinski, Michel; Laraki, Rida (2011). "Election by Majority Judgment: Experimental Evidence". In Situ and Laboratory Experiments on Electoral Law Reform. Studies in Public Choice. Vol. 25. pp. 13–54. doi:10.1007/978-1-4419-7539-3_2. ISBN 978-1-4419-7538-6.
  47. ^ Shikano, Susumu; Herrmann, Michael; Thurner, Paul W. (2009). "Strategic Voting under Proportional Representation: Threshold Insurance in German Elections". West European Politics. 32 (3): 634–656. doi:10.1080/01402380902779147. S2CID 154800908.
  48. ^ Pukelsheim, Friedrich (2007). "Seat bias formulas in proportional representation systems" (PDF). 4th ECPR General Conference. Archived from the original (PDF) on 7 February 2009.
  49. ^ Bouton, Laurent (2013). "A Theory of Strategic Voting in Runoff Elections". The American Economic Review. 103 (4): 1248–1288. doi:10.1257/aer.103.4.1248. ISSN 0002-8282. JSTOR 23469618.
  50. ^ Blais, André; Labbé-St-Vincent, Simon; Laslier, Jean-François; Sauger, Nicolas; Van der Straeten, Karine (2011). "Strategic Vote Choice in One-round and Two-round Elections: An Experimental Study". Political Research Quarterly. 64 (3): 637–645. doi:10.1177/1065912909358583. ISSN 1065-9129. JSTOR 23056381. S2CID 14130949.
  51. ^ Granberg, Donald; Holmberg, Sören (2010). The Political System Matters: Social Psychology and Voting Behavior in Sweden and the United States (European Monographs in Social Psychology). Cambridge University Press. p. 235. ISBN 9780521360319.
  52. ^ "In Sweden, When the Voters Turn Right, the Right Turns Left - New Politics". 23 January 2012.
  53. ^ "Dutch vote ends resistible rise of radicals". tribunedigital-chicagotribune. 13 September 2012. Retrieved 14 March 2016.
  54. ^ Hillinger, Claude (2005). "The Case for Utilitarian Voting". SSRN Electronic Journal. doi:10.2139/ssrn.732285. ISSN 1556-5068. S2CID 12873115. Retrieved 27 May 2022.
  55. ^ L., Balinski, M. (2010). Majority judgment: measuring, ranking, and electing. Laraki, Rida. Cambridge, Mass. ISBN 9780262015134. OCLC 707923182.{{cite book}}: CS1 maint: location missing publisher (link) CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  56. ^ Hershbach, Dudley; Brams, Steven (25 May 2001). "The Science of Elections". Science. 292 (5521): 1449. doi:10.1126/science.292.5521.1449. Retrieved 10 May 2024.
  57. ^ Laslier, Jean-François; Van Der Straeten, Karine (2016). "Strategic voting in multi-winner elections with approval balloting: A theory for large electorates". Social Choice and Welfare. 47 (3): 559–587. doi:10.1007/s00355-016-0983-y. S2CID 253844170.
  58. ^ Schulze, Markus. "Free Riding and Vote Management under Proportional Representation by the Single Transferable Vote" (PDF). Retrieved 14 March 2016.
  59. ^ Woodall, Douglas R. (March 1994). "Computer counting in STV elections". McDougall Trust. Retrieved 6 March 2011.
  60. ^ Markus Schulze (June 2004). "Free Riding" (PDF). Voting Matters (18): 2–8.


External links[edit]

  • Tactical Voting Can Be a Weak Strategy—Article on strategic voting within larger strategic considerations [archived]
  • "FAQs". VotePair: Uniting Progressives Through Strategic Voting. 20 October 2004. Archived from the original on 17 September 2008.
  • VoteRoll is a blog roll voting system that offers tiered strategic voting to develop statistics for people voting online since 2010.