A Local-Dominance Theory of Voting Equilibria

Reshef Meir, Omer Lev, Jeffrey S. Rosenschein

It is well known that no reasonable voting rule is strategyproof. Moreover, the common Plurality rule is particularly prone to strategic behavior of the voters and empirical studies show that people often vote strategically in practice. Multiple game-theoretic models have been proposed to better understand and predict such behavior and the outcomes it induces. However, these models often make unrealistic assumptions regarding voters' behavior and the information on which they base their vote. We suggest a new model for strategic voting that takes into account voters' bounded rationality, as well as their limited access to reliable information. We introduce a simple behavioral heuristic based on \emph{local dominance}, where each voter considers a set of possible world states without assigning probabilities to them. This set is constructed based on prospective candidates' scores (e.g., available from an inaccurate poll). In a \emph{voting equilibrium}, all voters vote for candidates not dominated within the set of possible states. We prove that these voting equilibria exist in the Plurality rule for a broad class of local dominance relations (that is, different ways to decide which states are possible). Furthermore, we show that in an iterative setting where voters may repeatedly change their vote, local dominance-based dynamics quickly converge to an equilibrium if voters start from the truthful state. Weaker convergence guarantees in more general settings are also provided. Using extensive simulations of strategic voting on generated and real preference profiles, we show that convergence is fast and robust, that emerging equilibria are consistent across various starting conditions, and that they replicate widely known patterns of human voting behavior such as Duverger's law. Further, strategic voting generally improves the quality of the winner compared to truthful voting.

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