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An Experiment in Approval Voting Author(s): Peter C. Fishburn and John D. C. Little Source: Management Science, Vol. 34, No.

5 (May, 1988), pp. 555-568 Published by: INFORMS Stable URL: . Accessed: 04/01/2011 03:19
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MANAGEMENT SCIENCE Vol. 34. No. 5. Mav 1988
Printed in '.S..]I.

PETER C. FISHBURN AND JOHN D. C. LITTLE 1T&T Bell Lahoralori(e.% Alih,r,a.i Ilill, New Jerese 07974 Sloailn School of' AIanagemnw,ii Allssachiseus I fills1eof( Techno/ohg, (Call)idgce, Alas.sachlu.sves 02 139 The first nmiajor experimenital comparisoni of approval voting with regular plurality voting occurred in the 1985 annual electioni of The Institute of Management Sciences (TIMS). In approval voting a person votes for (approves of) as many candidates as desired, the winner being the candidate with the most votes. By permittinigmore votes than the number of positions to be filled, approval voting collects mioreinformation from the voter than does plurality voting. This can make a difference, for exanmple,wlhenthree candidates compete for a single office. In such situations two candidates witlhwide but similar appeal sometimes split a majority constituency so that, under plurality voting, a minority candidate is elected. By contrast, approval voting is likely to identify the candidate who is most broadly acceptable to the electorate as a whole. In the TIMS experiment society members received an experimental approval ballot along with their official plurality ballot. Two contests involved three candidates running for a single office and a third, five candidates for two positions. Surprisingly, in two of the three contests, approval voting would have produced different winners and neither of the changes was of the type usually emphasized in the approval voting literature. The experiment demonstrated the practicality of approval voting and showed that it can elect a set of candidates different from that which plurality voting would. Direct comparison of ballots makes it possible to determine why the experimental switches occurred. It is shown that in each reversal the approval winner had broader support in the electorate than the plurality winner. The experiment also provided empirical data on how voters distribute approvals across candidates and indicated that, in this case, their behavior was roughly, but not exactly, consistent with theoretical analyses of voting efficacy. (VOTING; APPROVAL VOTING; EXPERIMENT; POLITICS) 1. Introduction

A major experiment to compare approval voting with regular plurality voting took place during the annual election of The Institute of Management Sciences (TIMS) in 1985. Most of the voters filled out an experimental approval ballot along with an official plurality ballot, thereby permitting a detailed, side-by-side examination of the two methods. The election involved 1800 voters in three multicandidate elections, which makes it by far the largest field test of approval voting to date. This paper describes the experiment, analyzes its results, finds unexpected phenomena, and shows that, under several quite different circumstances, approval voting provides winners that have broader electorate support than does plurality voting. Approval voting differs from familiar plurality voting by allowing each voter to vote for any number of candidates. Each vote is a full vote so that, if n people are to be elected, the n candidates with the most votes win. Plurality voting is similar except that each voter votes for at most n candidates. With two candidates running for one office, a voter normally marks the ballot for one or the other and so both methods give the same result. However, with three candidates running for the same office, under approval voting a voter may mark one, two, or three candidates. Marking one would be similar to ordinary plurality voting, marking two would indicate approval of two candidates relative to the third, and marking all three would have the same effect as not voting, * Accepted by Arnold Barnett; received May 1987. This paper has been with the authors 1 month for 1 revision. 555 0025- 1 909/88/3405/555$01 1.25
Copyright ? 1988, The Institute of Management Sciences



althoughthe voter could use such a mechanismto indicateapprovalof all candidates. In such multicandidate elections,havingtwo or morecandidates beyondthe numberof positionsto be filled,the two methods may well producedifferentoutcomes. Approvalvoting may be viewedas an extensionof pluralityvotingthat allowsvoters to expresstheir preferencesmore fully in multicandidate elections and so providesa of morecompletemeasurement electoratesupportfor each candidate.The methodwas proposedindependentlyby severalpeople about a decade ago (Ottewell 1977, Kellett and Mott 1977,Weber1977, Bramsand Fishburn1978,Morin 1980).Sincethen it has been explainedand analyzedby many investigators, including Mueller(1979), Kim and Roush (1980), Straffin(1980), Riker (1982), Brams and Fishburn (1983) and Merrilland Nagel (1985). It has arousedcontroversy and Bren(Riker 1982, Arrington ner 1984, Niemi 1984, Niemi and Bartels1984, Bramsand Fishburn1984, 1985)with respectto its,possibleeffectson two-partysystemsand the extent to which it mightbe vulnerable strategicvoting. to Certainquestionsaboutthe new methodcan be addressed theoretical by analysis,but a otherscannot. Therefore majorconcernabout approvalvoting as a practicalmethod in is its performance relativeto existingprocedures actualelections. Some insightcan be obtainedby examiningdata from past electionsto assessthe probableeffectson the outcomeshad approvalvoting been used (Bramsand Fishburn1983, Coombs,Cohen and Chamberlin1984).Such studiessuggestthat approvalvotingis superior existing to with respectto fairnessto votersand candidatesin termsof actuallyreflectprocedures ing the candidates' supportwithinthe electorate,and the likelihoodof electingmajority candidateswhen they exist. (Majoritycandidatesare ones who would defeatall others in simple-majority pairwisecontests.) For example, each of the 1970 and 1980 New York Senatorialelections had three main candidateson the ballot. Although each election had a majoritycandidate,the majoritycandidateslost the pluralityelections becausesome of theirsupportwasdivertedto similarcandidatesunderthe vote-for-one rule, therebypermittingminority candidatesto win. If approvalhad been used, the majoritycandidateswould have won. as Suggestive these historicalanalysesare, they invariably requireassumptionsabout how voterswould behave underdifferentcircumstances from those actuallyobtaining and thereforedo not providethe same force of evidence or permitthe same depth of analysisthat is enabledwhen voters fill in two alternativeballots for the same set of candidates.Nor can retrospective studiesrespondto the criticismthat approvalvoting is too difficultto implement. A field test can thereforehelp answerthe followingquestions: It (1) Does approvalvotingmake a difference? is relativelyeasy to pick out extreme examplesin historicalelectionswhereoutcome reversals would almost certainlyhave occurred,but one would like to develop a body of experiencewith more ordinary multicandidate elections.Furthermore, althoughin retrospective studieswe can sometimes infer preferences,albeit imperfectly,this does not tell us how voters would actuallymarka multi-choiceapprovalballot. (2) Whenapproval votingmakesa difference, whatcausesthe change? havingtwo By ballots from each voter, we can observeactual behaviorand find out not only which candidatesare drawingfrom which others,but also how much overallsecond choice approvalis generatedand how it will affectclose races. (3) Is approval voting feasible?Some people have suggested that it would be difficult for the votersto understand and carryout. (4) Will voters behave effectively?Theory suggests that certain voting strategies would be most efficaciousfor the voters,but will they vote this way in practice? The first field comparison of approvaland pluralityvoting that we know about



occurredat the Universityof Haifa in 1984 for elections to its facultysenate. Voters were asked to submit an experimentalballot along with their regularpluralityballot and to rank-order candidates.Only a few dozen voterswere involved.The results, the analyzed in Felsenthal, Maoz and Rapoport (1985), indicate that approval voting workedwell. The TIMSexperimentwas on a farlargerscale.It was patternedin parton the Haifa test in its use of two ballots and a rankingof candidates.However, unlike the Haifa elections, which had open-ended nominations, only a few candidatescompeted for each TIMSofficeand the numberof voterswas severalordersof magnitudelargerthan the numberof candidates.The TIMS case is much more like elections to public and privateofficeas most people ordinarilythink about them. In discussingthe results of the analysis as it proceeds,we shall assume that it is to desirable elect the candidatesmost wantedby the electorateas a whole, and we shall evaluateapprovalvoting for its ability to do that. In particular, shall assume that we majoritycandidatesare good, becausethey can defeatall other candidatesin one-onone runoffs.In the absenceof a majoritycandidateothermeasuresof overallelectorate preferencewill be examined. We save to the end of the paper a wider discussionof criteriaforjudgingvoting systems. The next section of the paper summarizesthe experimentaldesign and provides overall statisticson the balloting. Subsequentsections analyze the three individual dataappearin an electionsand a finalone discussesthe findings.Additionalsupporting appendix. 2. The TIMS Experiment TIMS by-lawsrequirethat all officesbe contested and, usually, exactly two candidates are nominated for each position. To create elections in which approvalvoting might be expected to make a difference,the nominatingcommittee deliberatelyincreasedthe numberof candidatesin threeof the elections.In two, one personwas to be elected from three candidates;in the third, two from five. All of the candidateswere informedof the test and agreedto participate. preservea degreeof anonymity,the To electionswill not be identifiedby officeand the candidateswill be designatedA, B, C, . . .etc. The experimentwas announcedin the society'snewsletterin February1985 and, in April,two ballotswere mailedto each member.An officialpluralityballot determined the binding resultsof the election and an experimentalballot assessedthe effects of approvalvotingin the threeracesthat had at least threecandidates.We shalldesignate the threeelectionsas: El: an election of one out of threecandidates; E2: anotherelection of one out of three; E3: an election of two out of five candidates. In these electionseach voter was askedto check approvedcandidatesto the rightof the names on the experimentalballot and, in addition, to rank the candidates(1, 2, .) at the left of the names. Althoughrankingsare not partof approvalvoting, they assist majoritycomparisons.Since majoritycandidatesare often believed to be most the desirable, experimentwas designedto includethis information. 1,851 membersreturnedthe officialballot. Of these, 1,579 (85%)also returnedthe test ballot. This remarkably high rate of returnshows widespreadcooperationby the membersand lends credenceto the results.Furthersupportarisesin the exceptionally small numberof inconsistencies,which run to single digit numbersin any given contest. (The Appendixprovidesfurtherdetails.)



Almost all the test ballots had some approvalschecked,but a few did not rank the candidates.The counts by responsecategorywere: RI. Only officialballot returned: R2. Test ballot also returned,but withoutrankings: R3. Test ballotalso returnedwith some rankings: in Slightlydifferentnumbersof votersparticipated each election. 3. ElectionEl El was a three-wayrace among candidatesA, B, and C, in which approvalvoting would have changedthe winnerfrom C to B. As may be seen in Table 1, candidateC won the officialelection by 8 votes (0.4%of the votes cast) but, had approvalvoting been in effect, B would have won by 130 (5.5%of the votes cast) using the actual totals. returnedvotes. B would have won by 170 (6.1%)in extrapolated 3.1. Construction ExtrapolatedTotals of Becausesome voterswho submittedan officialballotdid not returnthe test ballot,we totals that include an estimatedapprovalvote from this develop a set of extrapolated group. This requiresa hypothesisabout how nonrespondersto the approvalballot would have behavedhad they filled it out. Examinationof the voting patternson the official ballot for both respondersand non-respondersshows no major differences. Consequently,there is no basis within the data for expecting a bias from using the would have behavedin the mannerof those simpleassumptionthat the nonresponders who respondedto both ballots.Accordingly,let who voted for candidateX on the officialballot; Nx = numberof nonresponders approvingcandidateY given that they voted for X P(Y/X) = fractionof responders on the officialballot.
added approval votes for Y = P(Y/A)NA + P(Y/B)NB + P(Y/C)Nc.

272 (14.7%) 68 (3.7%) 1511 (81.6%) 1851

We see from Table 1 that the extrapolationdoes not changethe resultsin any fundamentalway. 3.2. Searchfor a MajorityCandidate Next we look for a majoritycandidate.As statedearlier,a majoritycandidateis one electionswith all othercandidates.The analysis who would win in pairwise(plurality)

and Votes ElectionEl Showthat C Wonthe Official Approval for Have Won OfficialElectionbutB Would under Approval Voting
Official Plurality Vote A B C 166 827 835** 1828 Actual Approval Vote 417 1038** 908 2363 (1567 voters) Extrapolated Approval Vote 486 1224** 1054 2764 (1828 voters)

** Largest vote.

AN EXPERIMENT IN APPROVAL VOTING TABLE 2 For Election El, Majority Comparisons Show, that in Hypothetical Two- Way Races both Be B and C WouildDe,featA but that B Against C Wotuld a Virtual Tie Contest: Inferred votes for: Revealed first choices from official ballot counts: Revealed second choices from: R3 rankings R2 approvals Subtotal of revealed choices: Estimated second choices: Extrapolated total votes: ** Larger vote. A A vs. B B A A vs. C C B B vs.



166 166 2 334 44 378

827 492 3 1322 128 1450**

166 290 4 460 89 549

835 331 9 1175 104 1279**

827 70 3 900 14 914

835 66 0 901 13 914

here is a little more complicatedand makes use of the rankings.Table 2 presentsthe results. The totalsshow that both B and C would beat A, but that B and C are essentiallyin a deadheat. The analysisthat leadsto these resultswill be illustrated with the B versusC comparison.827 voted for B on the official ballot and are listed in the first row as B preferring to C (and also B to A). Similarly835 preferC to B. However, 166 people for A. How wouldthey vote in a B versusC election?The ballotsof these 166 cast votes show that 70 providedrankingsin the orderABC, 66 providedrankingsACB, 3 providedno rankingsbut approvedA and B, 27 made no distinctionbetweenB and C by rankingor approvals. Thus in a B versusC comparisonthe 70 are creditedto B, the 66 to C, and the 3 to B. This leaves27 who voted for A but gave no indicationof a B versusC preference. If the 27 areignored,the revealedchoicesare900 for B and 901 for C. The next to last row of Table 2 estimateshow the 27 would split between B and C if they adheredto the a patternof the 139 voters(70 + 66 + 3) who voted for A and also expressed preference betweenB and C. The calculationfor B is 27(73/139) = 14.2 and for C is 27(66/139) = 12.8.The finaltotals,roundedto the nearestvote, are 914 for each. No valid distinction betweenthe two candidatesis possible. 3.3. Discussion To summarize,candidateC wins the officialpluralityelection by a hair,0.4%,but B election would be too would have won an approvalvote by 6.1%and a head-to-head close to call. The pictureemergesthat C has a loyal followingthat is just a little larger than B's. However, among A's followers,more approve of B than C (36%to 23%). more of C's followersapproveof B than B's followersdo of C. Hence B Furthermore wins the most approvalvotes. Whatcan we conclude?Approvalvotingis usuallypraisedbecauseit will oftenelect a majoritycandidatewhena splitblockof voteswouldcausethe candidateto lose. This is not really the case here. We do not have a clear majoritycandidatebecause of an effectivetie. However, approvalvoting picks a clear winner on the basis of second choices. These show that B has a broaderacceptancein the electoratethan C. There-



fore, the approval process, by eliciting more information from the voters, leads to the election of the candidate with the widest support. We should also point out that, although it did not happen here, it would be possible for C to have actually been a majority candidate by a few votes and then lose by the approval voting criterion because B received enough second choice approvals to become the winner. This could only happen for two close candidates, but does demonstrate that the criteria of "majority candidate" and "most approval votes" are not identical. On the other hand, as seems clear from the experiment as well as from various theoretical analyses, approval voting will more often bring forward majority candidates than plurality voting in those cases where results would differ. In experimental election El, for which there is no clear majority candidate, approval voting demonstrates its ability to be a tie-breaker in favor of the more broadly supported candidate. 4. Election E2

Election E2 is another three-way race to elect one person, but here plurality and approval results agree. Table 3 presents the results. Table 3 also demonstrates an attractive feature of approval voting for three-candidate contests in which all candidates make good showings. The winning plurality is 39.0%, well below 50%, whereas the largest approval count is 56.7%, comfortably over 50% of the voters. Hence even though C won with only a 39%plurality, C was approved of by a majority of the voters. In a surprise, even though candidate C easily wins both plurality and approval votes, C is not a clear majority candidate. As seen in Table 4, C defeats A (as does B) in a pairwise race, but C and B are very close when run against each other. Such a closeness would not have been anticipated from Table 3 and arises because A's supporters tend to prefer B to C (56% to 44%). To summarize, election E2 presents an example in which the plurality and approval votes agree on C. Surprisingly, C is not a clear majority candidate because we cannot be sure that C would beat B in a two-way race, although we do estimate a slight edge for C. From the point of view of plurality voting, C wins because A is a spoiler who takes enough votes away from B to let C carry the day. C's victory in approval voting has a different basis, one that seems better by our criterion of broadest support. It turns out that, among people who voted for A in the plurality election, more approve of C than B. Furthermore, more B-voters approve of C than C-voters approve of B. (These breakouts appear in the Appendix, Table 8.) Thus, as in election El, approval voting is a tiebreaker that selects the candidate with the widest support.


In ElectionE2 PluralityandApproval VotesPick the Same Winner
Official Plurality Vote Candidate A B C 386 551 599** 1536 Actual Approval Vote 558 713 768** 2039 (1354 voters) Extrapolated Approval Vote 635 801 871** 2307 (1536 voters)

** Largest vote.



For ElectionE2, C Is Barelya MajorityCandidate: Hypothetical In TwoWayRacesB Would DefeatA, C Would DefeatA, but C versusB SeemsAlmosttoo Closeto Call
Contest: Inferred votes for: Revealed first choices from official ballot counts: Revealed second choices from: R3 rankings R2 approvals Subtotal of revealed choices Estimated second choices: Extrapolated total votes: **Largervote. A A vs. B B A A vs. C C B B vs. C C

386 171 1 558 54 612

551 281 3 835 89 924**

386 179 2 567 55 622

599 240 1 840 74 914**

551 162 0 713 53 766

599 128 1 728 42 770**

5. ElectionE3 A new surpriseawaitsus in election E3, in which two people are to be elected from among 5 candidates,A, B, C, D and E. We find that the second place winner in the official pluralityelection finishesfourth in the approvalvoting. Table 5 shows the summary.(The extrapolated approvalvote shows the same patternas the actual vote and is omitted.) The majoritycomparisonsof hypotheticalpairwisecontestsbetweenthe candidates appearin Table6. Unlike electionsEl and E2, E3 has a clearmajoritywinner,B, who could defeatany othercandidatein a one-on-onepluralityelection.Furthermore, there is a majorityrunner-up,C, who could do the same with everyone except B. In fact, Table6 and Figure 1 show the majoritycomparisonsfor E3 are transitivewith ranking B C D A E. Rankingsfrom threetypes of analysisare: plurality: B A D C E approval: BCD A E majority: B C D A E. Thus approvalvoting has faithfullyreproducedthe majorityrankings,but plurality

In ElectionE3 with TwoPositionsto Be Filled, the First ChoiceIs the Same underbothMethodsbutthe SecondChoiceby Plurality Voting Dropsto FourthPlace in Approval Voting
Official Plurality Vote Candidate A B C D E 679* 937** 651 670 391 3328 (1749 voters)
** Largest vote. * Second largest vote.

Actual Approval Vote 669 956** 715* 685 483 3508 (1380 voters)



Winners in the PairwiseContestsbetween Five Candidates E3 ShowthatApproval Resultsof Hypothetical B and C WouldWinPairwiseContestwithall Others
Votes Inferred for A B A C A D A E B C B D B E C D C E D E Revealed First Choices from Rankings 337 443 337 266 337 259 337 103 443 266 443 259 443 103 266 259 266 103 259 103 Other Revealed Choices from Rankings 203 376 312 420 303 393 398 394 392 234 389 260 537 250 420 348 535 364 520 375 Revealed Choices from Approval Ballots 10 25 16 22 12 21 15 10 19 13 22 17 26 6 15 17 22 9 24 9

Contest A vsB A vs C A vs D A vs E B vs C B vs D B vs E C vs D C vs E D vs E

Totals 550 844* 665 708* 652 673* 750* 507 854** 513 854** 536 1006** 359 701** 624 823** 476 803** 487

** Largervote of pair

voting has not. Instead, as already noted, pluralityvoting elevates the fourth place to majoritycandidateto second place and dropsthe runner-up fourthplace. The informationon individualvoters providedby the experimentalsetup makes it what has happened.B clearlyhas wide support.Beyondthat a possibleto understand cohesiveminorityhas voted for A and electedA by pluralityvote. However,when the electorateis given an opportunityto expressits preferences removingthe two-vote by constraint,many more approveof C and D than A. For example, 23%of those not voting for C on the official ballot approvedof C. Similarly,20% not voting for D approvedof D. But only 14%of those not voting for A approvedof A. E3 with its five candidates and two positions is an at-large election. Given the

FIGURE 1. A graph of the hypothetical pairwise contests within E3 with arrows outward from the winners shows that B, then C, are the two elected. Since there are no directed cycles, no cyclical majorities are present.



freedomof approvalvoting, the electoratepicks C, who has broadacceptance,rather than A, who is favoredby the cohesive minority.However,this is not a flukeof bland election with C approval,since the rankingsshow that A would lose in a head-to-head (and even with D). Thus the experimentsupportsthe propositionthat approvalvoting tendsto pick majoritycandidates. Some peoplemay feel thatthe cohesivegroupshould win in this situation,perhapsbelievingthat, with two to be elected,such a groupshould have representation. This, however,is a separateissue (to be broughtup later).By the criterionof the wishesof the electorate a whole,approvalvotinghasselectedthe right as candidates. 6. Distribution ApprovalVotes of One question about approvalvoting is: how many candidateswill people actually vote for? Retrospectiveanalyses can sometimes infer preferencesbut are unable to assertwhetherthese would have been expressed approvalvotes. Anotherquestionis as whetherpeople will vote effectively.Bramsand Fishburn(1983) show that votes for eitherone or two candidates a three-candidate in electionareabout equallyefficacious, i.e., have about the same chance of affectingthe outcome. (This result holds when votersact independently, are brokenby randomdraw,and voters'preferences ties are evenly distributed over the differentpreference orders.)We also note that a voter may the manipulate numberof approvals a meansof expressing as preference. Thus a voter who feelshe or she approvesof, say, B but stronglywantsA to win may vote only for A. This might seem a violation of the instructionsfor approvalvoting but it can also be viewedas a desirable of the methodfor expressing use preference. principalclaim for A approvalvotingis that it is simplerthan rankingschemesbut producessimilarresults. in In this lightit is instructive examinethe distribution the numberof approvals of to electionsEl and E2: El E2 1 approval: 660 (46%) 720 (55%) 2 approvals: 706 (49%) 418 (32%) 3 approvals: 69 (5%) 161 (12%) We see that the great majorityof voters vote for either one or two, the theoretically effective strategies.Less predictably,we find roughly equal numbers of each. More is surprising the number who approveof three, since three approvalshave the same effect on the outcome of the election as not voting. However, three approvalsdo indicatethat all the candidatesareacceptable the voteras individualsto performthe to functionsof the office.Anotherinteresting featureis that in El , whereapprovalvoting producesa reversal outcome,therearemoredoubleapprovals fewertriples.This of and may reflectthe closenessof two of the candidatesand the remotenessof the third for most voters. Bramsand Fishburn(1983) furthersuggestthat, under certainassumptionsof the in distribution preferences the electorate,when the numberof candidatesis four or of more, it is efficaciousto vote for about half of them. In this light we examine the distributions approvalsfor E3, in which two candidatesare to be pickedfrom five: of E3 116 (8%) 1 approval: 641 (46%) 2 approvals: 494 (36%) 3 approvals: 4 approvals: 75 (5%) 5 approvals: 54 (4%). Thus most votersappearto be usingthe leverageof approvalvoting effiectively.



7. Conclusions Whatdoes the TIMS experimentsay about approvalvoting as a method? In contests,the outcome would Approval votingmakesa difference. the experimenal have changed for two of the four positions filled. Although the test obviously has Most analyzed historical limited scope, the number of reversalsis a little surprising.' elections have been selectedbecausethey contain conspicuousreversalsof presumed popular sentiment. Our examples are more ordinary,created only to have enough candidatesso that the voting method might make a difference. neitherof the experimentally-found Theexperimental data tell us why.Interestingly, switchesis of the type for which approvalvoting has receivedmost of its publicity,i.e., two popularcandidatessplittinga majorityso that a minoritycandidatewins. Nevertheless,in both of our cases we can demonstratethat the approvalvoting winner'has broadersupportamong the electorate'thanthe pluralitywinner. In election E'l, the ranking data show two candidates in a virtual tie. Approval voting breaks th-etie becauseit collects more data on voter preferences, essentiallysecond choice information. In election E3, approvalvoting would switchthe winnerto a majoritycandidate who would win in one-on-onecontestswith each of the relevantcandidates. on Even electionE2, for which pluralityand approvalresultsagree,provides,' deeper with the analysis,a case for the ability of approvalvoting to identify the Icandidate the broadestsupport.Rankingsindicatethat, in a head-to-head-election, winnerwould In election,the thirdcandidate barelyhavewon overthe runner-up. the actualplurality to is a spoilerwho takesenoughvotes awayfromthe runner-up createthe winner.This about fairness.The approvalelectionwould situationleavesone a little uncomfortable More of resolvethe close vote on differentgrounds,ones that seems more satisfactory. the runner-up's followersapproveof the winnerthan the winner'sfollowersdo of the runner-up. society. Approval votingis practical,at least for the membersof TIMS,a professional Approvalvoting is, in fact, operationallysimpler than some of the voting schemes operatingin majorcities today. In the experiment,no specialproblemswere encounwere extremelyfew. tered.Voter inconsistencies Most, but not all, voters act effectively.Theoreticalargumentssuggest that, in a three-candidate for one position,votingforexactlyone or exactlytwo candidates race is efficaciousand that, in a race with many candidates,voting for about half offersthe most influenceto the voter. The distributionof numbersof votes in the experimental electionssuggeststhat most of the votersbehavein these ways.-Somewhat is surprising and 4%,respectively, in the numberof voterswho approveof all candidates(5%,12%, the three races). This behavioris interpretedas meaning that all the candidatesare acceptableto the voter. The discussion so far has focused on whether approvalvoting better reveals the desiresof the electoratethan pluralityvoting,and the experimental evidencesuggests it does. However,other questionshave been raisedabout the method. Criticshave proposed that approvalvoting could be deleteriousto-the two-partysystem and that it to mightbe vulnerable strategicvoting. The experimentobviouslyis silent on the first question and, beyond the rather interestingdistributionsof actual approval votes, seems to offerlittle on the second. A furtherconcern is that perhapsin some cases the majoritywishes should not prevail.Perhapsa minoritycandidateshould be able to take advantageof a situation when two popularcandidatessplit a majority.This, of course,is not an experimental issuebut one of criterion.In the same genreis the situationthat came up in electionE3 with the five candidatesfor two offices.The pluralitywinnerswerecandidatesB and A wereB and C. CandidateA wins the pluralityvote because but the majoritycandidates can cast more than two of a tight group of supporters.When the electorateat -large



votes, it chooses C. One may arguethat the small group who wanted A should have representation even thoughA would lose to C in a head-to-head contest.Againthis is a criterion question.The experimentonly exposesthe phenomenon.One responsewould can be that representation and perhapsshouldbe handledin the designof the election, not the votingprocess.If representation desired,groupscan be dividedgeographically is or by other relevant segmentationinto separateelections. Within each election the votingprocesscan be made as broadlybasedas possible. In summary,the experimentprovidesdirect evidence that approvalvoting obtains more informationfrom the voter and uses it to capturethe centraltendency of the electoratebetterthan pluralityvoting. In the test the approvalmethod does this about as well as rankingmethodsbut with much less efforton the part of the voter and the tabulator.Unlike many new or rediscovered voting schemes,approvalvoting appears to be an easily understood alternative to the plurality and plurality-with-runoff methodsnow widely used for large-electorate multicandidate elections.Approvalvoting could therefore save much publicand privateexpense,as well as time, in those cases whererunoffsare now required.1
Editor'snote. In May of 1987 the TIMS Council voted to hold future elections of TIMS Officers and Council by means of approval voting.
'The authors wish to thank the TIMS Council, the nominees for office in the 1985 annual election, and, particularly, Dr. H. Newton Garber, Chairman of the Nominating Committee, for their support in authorizing and executing the TIMS experiment. We also thank Mary DeMelim and the TIMS Business Office for much help in designing the ballots and transcribing the votes.

Appendix the We provideherefurther datato supplement analysesin the text, especiallyfor electionsEl and E3. TABLE7 Numberof Voters Approving EachPossibleSubsetof Candidates, Brokenout by Voter's OfficialChoice, Plus Various Summaries Extrapolations and
Election El

in Candidates
Approval Set (R2 + R3) none A B C AB AC BC ABC Subtotals Approval votes for: A B C A 4 66 2 0 41 24 0 9 146 B 18 0 345 0 133 0 174 22 692 C 46 0 1 289 1 79 268 40 724 None 0 0 2 1 0 2 0 0 5 Total Ballots 68 66 350 290 175 105 442 71 1567 Actual approval vote (sum) 417 1038 908

140 52 33

155 674 196

120 310 676

2 2 3

Otherofficialvotes(RI): Official vote: plurality
Extrapolated additions to approval vote for: A B C

21 167

134 826

111 835

266 1828
Extrapolated approval vote total 486 1224 1054

21(140/146) + 134(155/692) + 111(120/724) = 69 21(52/146) + 134(674/692) + 111(310/724) = 186 21(33/146)+ 134(196/692)+ lll(676/724)= 1465



Ballot Transcription Discrepancies and the The TIMS BusinessOfficetranscribed officialballot votes onto the test ballot for each voter who returned checksandto linkthe two ballots.A fewminordiscrepancies bothto provideconsistency arosefrom For votesin El for A, B and C are 166,827 and 835 respectively transcription. example,the officialplurality on (Table 1). The same countsfromthe transcription the test ballotsare 167, 826 and 835 respectively (see Table7 "official plurality affectsour conclusions. vote").None of the discrepancies in Severalinteresting inconsistencies occurred the voting.Nine votersin electionE3 approved a candiof date rankedlowerthan one they did not approveof. Two El votersdid not approveof theirofficialballot choice, yet approvedof some other candidate.Seven votersdid the same in E2. In the five-candidate E3 election, 18 votersfailedto approveof a candidateselectedon their officialballotyet approvedothersnot selectedon the officialballot. Rankings In electionEl, 95%of the voterswho rankedone or more candidates the test ballot rankedall three on (1415of 1484).In E2 it was88% the of (1161 of 1313).In E3, 1420votersranked candidates, whom46 ranked only theirfirstchoice,210 rankedtheirfirsttwo choices, 189 rankedthree,and 975 (69%)rankedall five.A few votersindicated in theirrankings. ties El Approval Voting, votesand officialplurality votesalongwithotherdataused betweenapproval Table7 showsthe match-ups in returned testballot a to obtainthe summaries Table1. The upperpartof the tableincludes1567voterswhQ for El alongwith theirofficialballotand showsthe numberof voterswho approved each possiblesubsetof ballotchoice.Forexample,of the 105voterswho approved A of candidates a functionof the voter'sofficial as andC, 24 votedfor A on the officialballot,none votedfor B, 79 votedforC, and two votedfornobody.The "actualapproval vote"column in Table 1 is obtainedfromthe totalscolumn in the upperpartof Table7. The middlepartof Table7 summarizes numberof approval the votesforeachcandidate a functionof the as TABLE8 Numberof Voters Approving EachPossibleSubsetof Candidates, Brokenout by Voter's OfficialChoice, Plus Various Summaries Extrapolations and ElectionE2 in Candidates Approval Set (R2 + R3)
none A B C AB AC BC ABC Subtotals

Voter'sChoiceon Official Ballot A
15 194 0 1 37 44 0 45 336

28 2 245 3 46 1 119 49 493

35 0 0 263 0 69 99 59 525

0 3 3 6 1 0 2 8 23

Total Ballots
78 199 248 273 84 114 220 161 1377

Approval votes for:
A B C Other official votes (RI): 320 82 90 50 98 459 172 58 128 158 490 74 12 14 16

Actualapproval vote (sum)
558 713 768 182

Official vote: plurality Extrapolated additions to approval vote for:




1536 Extrapolated approval vote total

50(320/336) + 58(98/493) + 74(128/525) = 77 50(82/336) + 58(459/493) + 74(158/525) = 88

635 801


50(90/336)+ 58(172/493)+ 74(490/525)= 103




candidate voted for on the official ballot. The next two lines record the test-ballot nonresponders who voted on the official ballot (NA = 21, NB = 134, NC= 111), and the total plurality votes (counted from transcriptions on the test ballots plus the nonresponders totals). The bottom section shows the calculation for extrapolated approval vote totals.

E2 Approval Voting,
Table 8 does for election E2 what Table 7 does for El. TABLE 9

ChoicePair Brokenout by Voter's Approving Each Subsetof Candidates, Numberof Voters on the OfficialBallot.ElectionE3.
Candidates Approved of A B C D E AB AC AD AE BC BD BE CD CE DE ABC ABD ABE ACD ACE ADE BCD BCE BDE CDE ABCD ABCE ABDE ACDE BCDE ABCDE Total: Voter's Choice Pair on Official Ballot AB 6 5 AC 2 2 1 2 99 1 1 34 67 1 1 46 137 1 1 1 83 2 1 47 63 31 24 23 30 28 1 20 22 24 8 7 15 18 9 7 38 31 35 14 8 3 2 4 1 3 2 2 1 80 9 142 3 2 2 3 99 3 2 9 6 212 9 255 6 10 174 5 3 102 2 8 129 4 1 57 46 3 2 1 1 17 10 32 1 5 2 1 16 12 14 8 1 1 7 13 2 5 2 1 1 1 1 1 AD 1 7 2 4 2 4 4 3 2 3 AE BC BD BE CD CE DE Total 9 18 11 7 6



102 34 69 47 139 83 48 68 31 24 2 a.v.



60 64 66 33 18 32 105 62 29 9 3 a.v. =478 20 12 9 4 27 4a.v. =72 50 1296 5 a.v.= 50

Official Ballot Count Above A B C D E 533 743 521 491 304 2592

Ballots with Approval 629 894 683 633 474 (=51+ 2 X645+ 3313 3 X478+ 4 X72+S5X 50)


Approval Voting, E3


Table 9 shows the number of voters approving each subset of candidates as a function of the candidate pairs they chose on the official ballot. For example, row ABC shows that, of 60 people who approved of A, B, and C, 23 voted for A and B on the official ballot, 20 voted for A and C, 16 voted for B and C, and one person voted for C and E. Contrary to instruction on the official ballot, a number of people voted for only one of the five candidates on that ballot. These votes were counted in the official totals but are not reflected in Table 9. Summaries of the data in the main table are given at the bottom. Conditional relative frequencies for approving of a candidate not on the official ballot pair can be computed from the table. For example, of the 255 voters who voted for B and C on the main ballot, 29 approved of A (1 1%),57 approved of D (22%),and 53 approved of E (21%).As noted in ?5, 14%of the voters who did not vote for A approved of A, 23% who did not vote for C approved of C, and 20% who did not vote for D approved of D.

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