Would approval voting create strong voting blocs?


One thing I like about approval voting is that I feel that it is possible to easily form strong voting blocs around issues in a way IRV or any other voting system can’t. Advocacy groups can bet on every candidate that supports their pet issues and in a competitive race candidates would have to earn endorsements form the most popular ones to squeak out a victory.

I feel that AV could eliminate the way political parties operate – especially if you eliminate party primaries and just use a top two system with approval voting. Political parties would basically be glorified advocacy groups. Once you allow other candidates to compete, it doesn’t make sense to just run a single candidate.

It would also be easier for voters who care about a few issues, but generally don’t pay too much attention. If you are a college slacker and only care about legalizing pot, you could just vote for all the candidates endorsed by the “Legalize Pot Party” without having to worry about which one is more viable. You don’t have to do much research and can still make a meaningful vote based on your preferences. If you also care about net neutrality, you can vote for all the candidates mutually endorsed by both the “Legalize Pot Party” and the “Internet Freedom Party.”

I don’t see anyone pushing for this argument in support of approval voting though. I haven’t seen CES use it and I just listened to Aaron Hamlin on the 80,000 hours podcast and he didn’t talk about this. I am curious as to why. Am I just wrong about this? Am I imagining this property of AV that just isn’t there?


It might be getting too far into the weeds of the theory here. Talking about the future under AV when we don’t have solid evidence requires us to focus on its best and most obvious features.
I do agree that what you’re saying is likely, though I suspect it’ll be controversial. Some people rebel against single issue voting, and will take issue with that under a voting reform. So there might also be something pragmatic about not discussing that until you get into the other benefits.


This was the exact thing that got me to switch from Approval to Score voting. It is a little counter intuitive so let me try to explain. Approval voting has a bias to moderates so I always worried that fringe ideas and minority groups would lack representation. However, if you look at the history center candidates fighting against center candidates win by promising favours to small groups who gain a lot from the policy at the cost of the general population where each person only takes a minor penalty. This means that large centerist groups with no pet cause die a death of 1000 cuts. In his landmark book “The Logic of Collective Action”, Mancur Olson referred to these people as “The ‘Forgetten Groups’, Those Who Suffer In Silence”. There are many examples of this issue happening with tax codes. Here is the great Milton Friedman talking about this effect in tax codes. https://youtu.be/TruCIPy79w8 He takes a while to get to the point.

In the end my fear of this effect is what makes me think the center bias of Approval will result in an increase of this effect. Polarizing systems will also do this but in polarized blocks. This means we are likely better off with an unbiased Score voting.

You do touch on a more interesting topic. Why do we always talk about election science for selecting representatives not for the formation of government? In the US this is a more complicated system but in a parliamentary system it is just the leader of the largest party/coalition. Why the leader of a party? Why not the member of the assembly with the highest approval among all leaders?


This increased centrist “polarization” will likely not derail voting reform efforts, or lead to a repeal.

It’ll be simpler to convince people to go for a “better” voting system once they’re used to any decent reform, especially one conceptually related to the better system.

If you want to get Score, maybe the best approach for that is to focus on Approval?

There are many here who believe Score is more logically coherent or sensible to the average voter than Approval. So you have allies in pushing for Score, if you believe in it.

Selecting Prime Ministers and all hired officers should be conducted by voting reform. But to get into that, I suggest creating a new post.


Yep totally agree. My proposal for reform would start with Approval. The path forward would be Approval -> Score -> my variant of RRV. In theory a referendum with all these options would be ideal. I think a lot of reform has been sabotaged by going to a system with a Proportional Representation outcome as a first step. Going to Approval is a benefit in every way over Single Member Plurality.


Doesn’t score voting also have a bias toward moderates? Or are you expecting voters to not normalize their ballots or something?


No score is not biased. Under the standard Bayesian Regret definition it is tautologically true in the limit of infinite gradations of score. In the video he did not show Approval but it has a centerist bias since it is the other extreme of score with the lowest possible number of gradations (ie 2). He was likely using a score 0-9 model which has rounding effects over the idealization of infinity. He is also comparing to Condorcet not really the Bayesian Regret definition. He mentions this at the end when talking about Warren’s work.

One important note is that some people desire polarization and justify IRV based on this. This is equivalent to saying you only care about what the majority wants and they should not have to compromise. You can’t have both this and low bayesian Regret. As I said above I used to like the centerist bias of Approval because I favoured compromise candidates.


Yes, I think that switching to single-issue parties would be a great idea. Then a person could join all the parties that stand for what that person stands for. I could join the party for the longevity of the human species, the party against aggressive war, the party against torture, the party against absolute political rule by capital, and so on.