Quarterly Journal of Political Science > Vol 1 > Issue 3

Context-dependent Voting

Steven Callander, Kellogg School of Management, Northwestern University, scal@kellogg.northwestern.edu , Catherine H. Wilson, Kellogg School of Management, Northwestern University, chw@hss.caltech.edu
Suggested Citation
Steven Callander and Catherine H. Wilson (2006), "Context-dependent Voting", Quarterly Journal of Political Science: Vol. 1: No. 3, pp 227-254. http://dx.doi.org/10.1561/100.00000007

Publication Date: 03 Jul 2006
© 2006 S. Callander and C.H. Wilson
Voting behavior,  Voting theory,  Formal modelling e,  Political psychology


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In this article:
Context-Dependent Voting 
Context-Dependent Voting in U.S. Elections 
Electoral Competition with Context-Dependent Voting 
Appendix: Proofs 


In recent decades psychologists have shown that the standard model of individual choice is often violated as choices are influenced by the decision context. We propose that voting behavior may be similarly influenced and we introduce a theory of context-dependent voting. Context-dependence implies that preferences over any pair of alternatives may depend not just on the two options but on the entire choice set. With an analysis of data gathered during the 1996 U.S. congressional election we confirm the presence of a significant context-dependent effect on voting behavior. In addition, we demonstrate that, when applied to a simple, standard model of electoral competition, context-dependent voting yields an equilibrium in which only two candidates compete and adopt divergent policy platforms, thereby deterring additional entry. The equilibrium is simultaneously consistent with policy divergence and the stability of two-party political systems that underlies Duverger's Law.