Social Heterogeneity and Choice Failure Under Condorcet and Borda

  • Michael Jankowski
  • Markus Tepe
Part of the Jahrbuch für Handlungs- und Entscheidungstheorie book series (JAHAEN)


Taking advantage of recent progress in simulation techniques, this study replicates and extends previous research on social heterogeneity and choice failure under Condorcet and Borda. The simulation results can be summarized in three points: First, under a uniform distribution of preference profiles (Impartial Culture, IC), Borda is less likely to fail in selecting a group winner than Condorcet. With empirical preference profiles, obtained from the Inglehart (The silent revolution: changing values and political styles among western publics, Princeton University Press: Princeton, 1977) item battery presented in the GGSS (German General Social Survey (ALLBUS) 1980–2012. Study-No. 4578, GESIS—Leibniz-Institut für Sozialwissenschaften, Cologne, 2014), however, Condorcet is less likely to fail in selecting a group winner. Second, under IC, the probability that Condorcet and Borda provide identical group winners strongly decreases with group size, whereas with the GGSS sample, the probability of identical winners slowly increases with group size. Third, while unimodality has hardly any effect on choice failure, higher levels of bimodality are associated with a strong decrease in the probability of choice failure under both methods. In sum, these results corroborate conclusions from previous simulations that Riker’s (Liberalism against populism: a confrontation between the theory of democracy and the theory of social choice, Waveland, Illinois, 1982) general dismissal of majoritarian democracy as inaccurate remains incorrect. However, our results also indicate that making a well informed choice for either Condorcet or Borda becomes more important with higher degrees of preference polarization.


Borda Condorcet Majority cycles Ties Behavioral social choice Inglehart index German general social survey 



We are grateful for the comments and suggestions provided by the audiences of the 2016 Annual Meeting of the Study Group “Dynamics of Collective Decisions” at the Hanse Wissenschaftskolleg (HWK) and the 2016 Annual Meeting of the DVPW Working Group “Handlungs- und Entscheidungstheorie” (AK HET). Furthermore, this paper benefited from comments of the two reviewers.


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© Springer Fachmedien Wiesbaden GmbH 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Institut für SozialwissenschaftenCarl von Ossietzky Universität OldenburgOldenburgDeutschland

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