Modeling the Evolution of Ideological Landscapes Through Opinion Dynamics

  • Jan LorenzEmail author
Conference paper
Part of the Advances in Intelligent Systems and Computing book series (AISC, volume 528)


This paper explores the possibilities to explain the stylized facts of empirically observed ideological landscapes through the bounded confidence model of opinion dynamics. Empirically, left–right self-placements are often not normally distributed but have multiple peaks (e.g., extreme-left-center-right-extreme). Some stylized facts are extracted from histograms from the European Social Survey. In the bounded confidence model, agents repeatedly adjust their ideological position in their ideological neighborhood. As an extension of the classical model, agents sometimes completely reassess their opinion depending on their ideological openness and their propensity for reassessment, respectively. Simulations show that this leads to the emergence of clustered ideological landscapes similar to the ones observed empirically. However, not all stylized facts of real world ideological landscapes can be reproduced with the model.

Changes in the model parameters show that the ideological landscapes are susceptible to interesting slow and abrupt changes. A long term goal is to integrate models of opinion dynamics into the classical spatial model of electoral competition as a dynamic element taking into account that voters themselves shape the political landscape by adjusting their positions and preferences through interaction.


Continuous opinion dynamics Bounded confidence European social survey Stylized facts Homophile adaptation Random reconsideration Consensus Polarization Plurality 



Presented at ESSA@Work Groningen 2015. The author thanks Klaus Troitzsch, Nigel Gilbert, and Geeske Scholz for comments and advice. A former version of the paper was presented at ECPR General Conference Sept 3–6, 2014, Glasgow in the Panel P289 “Preference Formation and Formal Models of Politics.” Part of this research was funded by the German Research Council (DFG) grant no. LO2024/2-1 “Opinion Dynamics and Collective Decision: Procedures, Behavior and Systems Dynamics.”


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Jacobs University BremenFocus Area Diversity and Bremen International Graduate School of Social Sciences (BIGSSS)BremenGermany

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