Group incentives and rational voting1

Alastair Smith, Bruce Bueno de Mesquita, Tom LaGatta

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


    Our model describes competition between groups driven by the choices of self-interested voters within groups. Within a Poisson voting environment, parties observe aggregate support from groups and can allocate prizes or punishments to them. In a tournament style analysis, the model characterizes how contingent allocation of prizes based on relative levels of support affects equilibrium voting behavior. In addition to standard notions of pivotality, voters influence the distribution of prizes across groups. Such prize pivotality supports positive voter turnout even in non-competitive electoral settings. The analysis shows that competition for a prize awarded to the most supportive group is only stable when two groups actively support a party. However, competition among groups to avoid punishment is stable in environments with any number of groups. We conclude by examining implications for endogenous group formation and how politicians structure the allocation of rewards and punishments.

    Original languageEnglish (US)
    Pages (from-to)299-326
    Number of pages28
    JournalJournal of Theoretical Politics
    Issue number2
    StatePublished - Apr 1 2017


    • Pivotality
    • pivotal voting
    • random population model
    • turnout
    • voting

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • Sociology and Political Science


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