Theory and Decision

, Volume 61, Issue 3, pp 251-276

First online:

How Does Separability Affect The Desirability Of Referendum Election Outcomes?

  • Jonathan K. HodgeAffiliated withDepartment of Mathematics, Grand Valley State University Email author 
  • , Peter SchwallierAffiliated withDepartment of Mathematics, Grand Valley State University

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Recent research has shown that in referendum elections, the presence of interdependence within voter preferences can lead to election outcomes that are undesirable and even paradoxical. However, most of the examples leading to these undesirable outcomes involve contrived voting situations that would be unlikely to occur in actual elections. In this paper, we use computer simulations to investigate the desirability of referendum election outcomes. We show that highly undesirable election outcomes occur not only in contrived examples, but also in randomly generated elections. Our data suggest that the presence of interdependent preferences significantly increases the likelihood of such undesirable outcomes, and that certain alternative voting methods, such as sequential voting and setwise aggregation, hold the potential to produce outcomes that more accurately reflect the will of the electorate.


computer simulation preference interdependence referendum elections separable preferences voting paradoxes