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A pinboard by
Sybil Wong, PhD

Completed Biochemistry PhD, passionate about accelerating scientific discovery with technology

PINBOARD SUMMARY

Explore the latest research: how can we apply science in the upcoming UK snap election on 8th June?

How to go forward with Brexit is one of the most important issues that has faced the UK parliament and public for generations. At the time of the referendum in June last year, the UK public was divided over between the remainers and leavers. One year on, with news that there will be a snap election, it is unclear how the same electorate will cast their vote. With Brexit as the main issue colouring the election, voters are sensing the need, more than ever, to cast a tactical vote.

Each of the 650 parliamentary constituencies will elect one Member of Parliament to the House of Commons using the first past the post system. If one party obtains a majority of seats, then that party is entitled to form the Government, with its leader as Prime Minister. If the election results in no single party having a majority, then there is a hung parliament, in which options for forming the Government are either a minority government or a coalition government.

As we have learnt from last year's referendum and the US presidential election, elections can be unpredictable, and perhaps this one is especially so. Still, with the stakes being so high for the future of Britain, the pressure is on to vote tactically. Leaders are encouraging voters to put usual party affiliation aside on election day and rather cast their vote tactically.

In parallel to the election fever occurring in France, some suggest forming a Lib Dem - Labour - Green progressive coalition could be the only way to avoid a Tories landslide. Ahead of the UK’s snap election, anti-Brexit campaigner Gina Miller announced what she calls the biggest tactical voting effort in UK history. The Best for Britain initiative aims to support parliamentary candidates who commit to keeping the options open for the British people. The initiative’s efforts are to fight to make the Brexit deal process transparent, honest and democratic. But will the odds of a tactical voting strategy add up? Some believe the danger in letting things, more or less, go along the usual party lines is that the elections will be irrelevant to the crucial issues the country is now facing.

As in all times of uncertainty, turning to science can help. With the elections on our collective conscience, this curated collection of research papers can help us explore the science behind approaches to tactical voting, party preferences and landslide elections.

17 ITEMS PINNED

Detecting Possible Manipulators in Elections

Abstract: Manipulation is a problem of fundamental importance in the context of voting in which the voters exercise their votes strategically instead of voting honestly to prevent selection of an alternative that is less preferred. The Gibbard-Satterthwaite theorem shows that there is no strategy-proof voting rule that simultaneously satisfies certain combinations of desirable properties. Researchers have attempted to get around the impossibility results in several ways such as domain restriction and computational hardness of manipulation. However these approaches have been shown to have limitations. Since prevention of manipulation seems to be elusive, an interesting research direction therefore is detection of manipulation. Motivated by this, we initiate the study of detection of possible manipulators in an election. We formulate two pertinent computational problems - Coalitional Possible Manipulators (CPM) and Coalitional Possible Manipulators given Winner (CPMW), where a suspect group of voters is provided as input to compute whether they can be a potential coalition of possible manipulators. In the absence of any suspect group, we formulate two more computational problems namely Coalitional Possible Manipulators Search (CPMS), and Coalitional Possible Manipulators Search given Winner (CPMSW). We provide polynomial time algorithms for these problems, for several popular voting rules. For a few other voting rules, we show that these problems are in NP-complete. We observe that detecting manipulation maybe easy even when manipulation is hard, as seen for example, in the case of the Borda voting rule.

Pub.: 15 Feb '15, Pinned: 26 Apr '17

Decisions among the undecided: implicit attitudes predict future voting behavior of undecided voters.

Abstract: Implicit attitudes have been suggested as a key to unlock the hidden preferences of undecided voters. Past research, however, offered mixed support for this hypothesis. The present research used a large nationally representative sample and a longitudinal design to examine the predictive utility of implicit and explicit attitude measures in the 2008 U.S. presidential election. In our analyses, explicit attitudes toward candidates predicted voting better for decided than undecided voters, but implicit candidate attitudes were predictive of voting for both decided and undecided voters. Extending our examination to implicit and explicit racial attitudes, we found the same pattern. Taken together, these results provide convergent evidence that implicit attitudes predict voting about as well for undecided as for decided voters. We also assessed a novel explanation for these effects by evaluating whether implicit attitudes may predict the choices of undecided voters, in part, because they are neglected when people introspect about their confidence. Consistent with this idea, we found that the extremity of explicit but not implicit attitudes was associated with greater confidence. These analyses shed new light on the utility of implicit measures in predicting future behavior among individuals who feel undecided. Considering the prior studies together with this new evidence, the data seem to be consistent that implicit attitudes may be successful in predicting the behavior of undecided voters.

Pub.: 04 Feb '14, Pinned: 26 Apr '17

Voting Intention and Choices: Are Voters Always Rational and Deliberative?

Abstract: Human rationality-the ability to behave in order to maximize the achievement of their presumed goals (i.e., their optimal choices)-is the foundation for democracy. Research evidence has suggested that voters may not make decisions after exhaustively processing relevant information; instead, our decision-making capacity may be restricted by our own biases and the environment. In this paper, we investigate the extent to which humans in a democratic society can be rational when making decisions in a serious, complex situation-voting in a local political election. We believe examining human rationality in a political election is important, because a well-functioning democracy rests largely upon the rational choices of individual voters. Previous research has shown that explicit political attitudes predict voting intention and choices (i.e., actual votes) in democratic societies, indicating that people are able to reason comprehensively when making voting decisions. Other work, though, has demonstrated that the attitudes of which we may not be aware, such as our implicit (e.g., subconscious) preferences, can predict voting choices, which may question the well-functioning democracy. In this study, we systematically examined predictors on voting intention and choices in the 2014 mayoral election in Taipei, Taiwan. Results indicate that explicit political party preferences had the largest impact on voting intention and choices. Moreover, implicit political party preferences interacted with explicit political party preferences in accounting for voting intention, and in turn predicted voting choices. Ethnic identity and perceived voting intention of significant others were found to predict voting choices, but not voting intention. In sum, to the comfort of democracy, voters appeared to engage mainly explicit, controlled processes in making their decisions; but findings on ethnic identity and perceived voting intention of significant others may suggest otherwise.

Pub.: 18 Feb '16, Pinned: 26 Apr '17

Patterns of democracy: Coalition governance and majoritarian modification in the United Kingdom, 2010–2015

Abstract: Abstract The UK is often regarded as the archetype of Westminster democracy and as the empirical antithesis of the power-sharing coalitions of Western Europe. Yet, in recent years a different account has emerged which focuses on the subtler institutional dynamics that limit the executive. It is to this body of scholarship that this article responds, locating the recent chapter of coalition government within the wider context of the UK’s democratic evolution. To do so, the article draws on Lijphart’s two-dimensional typology of democracies, developing a refined framework that enables systematic comparison over time. The article demonstrates that over the course of the 2010–2015 Parliament, the UK underwent another period of majoritarian modification, driven by factors including the long-term influence of the constitutional forces unleashed under Labour and the short-term impact of coalition management. The article makes several important contributions, salient in the UK and beyond. Theoretically, it offers a critical rejoinder to debates regarding the relationship between institutional design and democratic performance. Methodologically, it demonstrates that the tools of large-scale comparison can be effectively scaled down to facilitate within-case analysis. Empirically, it provides a series of conclusions regarding the tenability of the UK’s extant democratic architecture under the weight of pressures to which it continues to be subject.AbstractThe UK is often regarded as the archetype of Westminster democracy and as the empirical antithesis of the power-sharing coalitions of Western Europe. Yet, in recent years a different account has emerged which focuses on the subtler institutional dynamics that limit the executive. It is to this body of scholarship that this article responds, locating the recent chapter of coalition government within the wider context of the UK’s democratic evolution. To do so, the article draws on Lijphart’s two-dimensional typology of democracies, developing a refined framework that enables systematic comparison over time. The article demonstrates that over the course of the 2010–2015 Parliament, the UK underwent another period of majoritarian modification, driven by factors including the long-term influence of the constitutional forces unleashed under Labour and the short-term impact of coalition management. The article makes several important contributions, salient in the UK and beyond. Theoretically, it offers a critical rejoinder to debates regarding the relationship between institutional design and democratic performance. Methodologically, it demonstrates that the tools of large-scale comparison can be effectively scaled down to facilitate within-case analysis. Empirically, it provides a series of conclusions regarding the tenability of the UK’s extant democratic architecture under the weight of pressures to which it continues to be subject.

Pub.: 29 Nov '16, Pinned: 25 Apr '17