A Problem with Referendums

Dean Lacy, Emerson M.S. Niou
2000 Journal of Theoretical Politics  
When some voters have nonseparable preferences across multiple binary issues, majority rule may not select a Condorcet winning set of outcomes when one exists, and the social choice may be a Condorcet loser or Pareto-dominated by every other set of outcomes. We present an empirical example of one such paradox from voting on the Internet. We evaluate potential solutions to the problem of nonseparable preferences in referendums, including set-wise voting, sequential voting, and vote-trading.
more » ... ntial voting and vote-trading prevent the selection of Condorcet losers and universally Pareto-dominated outcomes. Legislatures facilitate sequential voting and vote-trading better than referendums, suggesting that referendums increase the quantity of participants in democratic decisionmaking but decrease the quality of participation. KEY WORDS • Condorcet winner • nonseparable preferences • referendums • sequential voting • strategic voting • vote-trading 1. Most dictionaries list both 'referendums' and 'referenda' as acceptable plural forms of 'referendum'. We adopt the convention of the Oxford American Dictionary: 'The Latin word referendum (= referring) has no plural in Latin, so careful writers prefer to use referendums as the plural in English.' Journal of Theoretical Politics 12(1): 5-31
doi:10.1177/0951692800012001001 fatcat:jnb3jezpmvdfvdtrcghlvbl3we