Quarterly Journal of Political Science > Vol 1 > Issue 2

Satisficing and Selection in Electoral Competition

Jonathan Bendor, Graduate School of Business, Stanford University, Dilip Mookherjee, Department of Economics, Boston University, Debraj Ray, Department of Economics, NYU,
Suggested Citation
Jonathan Bendor, Dilip Mookherjee and Debraj Ray (2006), "Satisficing and Selection in Electoral Competition", Quarterly Journal of Political Science: Vol. 1: No. 2, pp 171-200. http://dx.doi.org/10.1561/100.00000005

Published: 02 Mar 2006
© 2006 J. Bendor, D. Mookherjee, and D. Ray
Voting theory,  Electoral behavior,  Formal modelling

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Related Work
The Model and Its Implications
Informed and Sophisticated Challengers
Robustness Issues


We model political parties as adaptive decision-makers who compete in a sequence of elections. The key assumptions are that winners satisfice (the winning party in period t keeps its platform in t + 1) while losers search. Under fairly mild assumptions about losers' search rules, we show that the sequence of winning platforms is absorbed into the top cycle of the (finite) set of feasible platforms with probability one. This implies that if there is a majority rule winner then ultimately the incumbent party will espouse it. However, our model, unlike Downs–Hotelling or Kollman–Miller–Page, does not predict full convergence: we show, under weak assumptions about the out-party's search, that losing parties do not stabilize at the majority rule winner (should it exist). We also establish, both analytically and computationally, that the adaptive process is robust: if a majority rule winner nearly exists then the trajectory of winning platforms tends to be close to the trajectory of a process which actually has such a winner.