Public Choice

, Volume 53, Issue 2, pp 101–130 | Cite as

Retrospective voting: An experimental study

  • Kenneth E. Collier
  • Richard D. McKelvey
  • Peter C. Ordeshook
  • Kenneth C. Williams


This essay reports on some experiments designed to study two candidate electoral competition when voters are ‘retrospective’ voters. The experiments consist of a sequence of elections in which subjects play the part of both voters and candidates. In each election the incumbent adopts a policy position in a one-dimensional policy space, and voters are paid (on the basis of single peaked utility function over that space) for the position adopted by the incumbent. Neither voters nor candidates are informed of the voter utility functions, and the only information received by the voter is the payoff he has received from the present and previous incumbent administrations. Despite the severely limited information of candidates and voters, we find that, generally, candidates converge toward the median voter ideal point.


Experimental Study Utility Function Public Finance Ideal Point Median Voter 
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  4. McKelvey, R.D., and Ordeshook, P.C. (1985b). Sequential elections with limited information. American Journal of Political Science 29: 480–512.Google Scholar
  5. Pokin, S., Gorman, J.W., Phillips, C. and Smith, J.A. (1976). What have you done for me lately: Toward an investment theory of voting. American Political Science Review 70: 779–805.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Martinus Nijhoff Publishers 1987

Authors and Affiliations

  • Kenneth E. Collier
    • 1
  • Richard D. McKelvey
    • 2
  • Peter C. Ordeshook
    • 3
  • Kenneth C. Williams
    • 4
  1. 1.University of Texas at AustinAustinUSA
  2. 2.California Institute of TechnologyUSA
  3. 3.University of Texas at AustinAustinUSA
  4. 4.University of Texas at AustinAustinUSA

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