Wednesday, December 16, 2015

URSP Student Christopher Messier Works Towards a Theory of Voter Choice

This time next year, millions of Americans will go to the polls to determine who will be the next president of the United States of America. The citizen’s duty to help determine the political trajectory of the nation is what comprises the core of the democratic ideal. So the rhetoric goes. The common discourse in the classical literature and research often characterizes voting in platitudes such as these: restricting the reasoning of voters to the normative realm. While the common discussion of voting in normative terms leaves much to be desired, it has provide space for the development of formal theories of why individuals vote in elections. This is the principle aim of my research.

In many ways, this research sits at the confluence of my many research interests. I had always been drawn to the study of Political Science, and the desire to understand the nature of political relationships among individuals; however I was always left me yearning for a more formalized methodology. It was this desire for that lead me to pursue my studies in Economics. The formalization of models, and the efforts to test theories using empirical and experimental studies provided the rigor that I had always desired. As continued with my studies, I was still drawn to the topics of Political Science, but with the aim to apply my newfound analytical framework. I am quite grateful that the Undergraduate Research Scholars Program has allowed me to do this.

Exploring voting through the lens of Economics has provided a wonderful foray into this interdisciplinary field. Primarily my efforts focused on how to contextualize much of the Political Theory that I had studied in the past within the applicable Economic Theory. This leads me to reading publications from economists, and mathematical political scientists – a field that I have pleasantly been introduced to during my current research – who have worked on the formalization of the theories of voting. I have come to find that the topics of elections and voting are of great interest within a number of fields, such as Game Theory and Mechanism Design, and I have found a wealth of literature that has fed my own growing interest. Yet, reading the works of others is only beginning of my research efforts. My real work begins when I put pen to paper, and begin playing with different models of voting behavior and electoral systems. This past week it was a proof of the stability of binomial candidate preferences, next it will be trying to model the distribution of voters with heterogeneous preferences faced with this choice set. It has been a joy to watch my research develop throughout this semester, and am quite grateful to have this opportunity.