Approval voting in scientific and engineering societies

Steven J. Brams, Peter C. Fishburn

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


    Approval voting is a system in which members can vote for as many candidates as they like in multicandidate elections. In 1987 and 1988, four scientific and engineering societies, collectively comprising some 350,000 members, used this election reform for the first time. Their reasons for adoption varied but centered around efforts to elect consensus candidates. Approval voting has indeed elected so-called Condorcet candidates, who can defeat all other candidates in pairwise contests. Moreover, these winners generally enjoy support among different classes of voters, so they are not merely "lowest common denominators," as some analysts had feared. In at least one instance, approval voting would have led to a different winner from plurality voting (in which voters can vote for exactly one candidate); arguably, this winner would have been the better social choice because he had wider support than his closest opponent. On another occasion, approval voting led to "ideological voting"-in which the voting patterns reflected an underlying ordering of the candidates-but voting in most societies tends to be nonideological. Overall, the recent experimentation with approval voting has shown that it not only may make a difference but also elects broadly acceptable candidates.

    Original languageEnglish (US)
    Pages (from-to)41-55
    Number of pages15
    JournalGroup Decision and Negotiation
    Issue number1
    StatePublished - Apr 1992


    • AV dominance
    • Condorcet candidate
    • approval voting
    • coalitions
    • elections
    • ideology
    • professional societies

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • General Decision Sciences
    • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
    • General Social Sciences
    • Strategy and Management
    • Management of Technology and Innovation


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