Duverger’s Law

On Tuesday, after voting, I went to the local plasma center for my bi-weekly visit. Yes, I sell plasma. Anyway, as the election was the topic on everyone’s mind, I was asked by one of the technicians if I had voted and for whom. I revealed that I had voted third party and that I had done so in effort to support a multiparty system as well as not feeling a strong attraction to neither McCain nor Obama. Naturally, a donor next to me jumped in, stating that she was a politics major (and I would later find out she was a Drake University law student) and had to butt in. I figured this would lead to a discussion of politics from varying view points or even someone who agreed with me.


The law student started into a monologue about Duverger’s Law, with which I was unfamiliar and to which I confessed. She proceeded to talk down to me, allude to me being foolish for voting third party, then finally capped off her monologue with “maybe you should just move to Europe.” I tried asking a question or two of her concerning this Law and even make a few counterpoints, but she had said her piece had lost interest. It took all my strength not to remove the needle from my arm and pop her in the mouth. Essentially, she stated that Duverger’s Law said in a single-member district plurality (a.k.a. SMDP a.k.a. he/she who gets the most votes, wins) prevents anything more than the two party system. End of story.

However, when I got home and did a bit of research on Duverger’s Law (which she was so kind as to point out was French), I found out this girl was a bit off the mark. First, there are several examples of multi-parties existing (India and Scotland to name two) where SMDP is used. Second, the law doesn’t state that SMDP prevents a multi-party system. Duverger himself said that SMDP simply makes it hard for third parties to survive, BUT IT IS NOT AN ABSOLUTE! So, as most people do, she was shaping to fit her argument.

A few days later, I was speaking to a regular of Mars Cafe, whom is also a Drake Professor of Politics and Rhetoric, about this particular incident and he had this to say:

“You must remember two things about grad students: First, whatever it is they have read most recently, they will swear by it, and second, they then feel the need to tell the entire world about it.”

Boo yah, you stupid girl!

you can read more the wikipedia entry on Duverger’s Law here.


4 responses to “Duverger’s Law

  1. that’s a good quote

  2. Some country use a system that works something like this: the various parties’ candidates all run against each other and then there’s an election day. If someone manages to get over 50% of the vote then they win outright but otherwise, the top 2 candidates move on to a final election.

    One thing I like about that system is it allows people to vote for whoever they want to without fearing that they will give power to the worst candidate. For instance, I was so scared of Sarah Palin I felt I HAD to vote against her and voting for Obama was the best way to do that. If we had a preliminary election, I think all of the 3rd party candidates would get more attention and then eventually become a part of the process.

    Bonus person opinion: any 3rd party that really wants to make it in the world should concentrate on a single state for maybe 2 election cycles. Get some members in that state’s legislature and then start expanding to neighboring states. Too many of the 3rd parties just pop up at presidential election time and don’t do enough grassroots work.

  3. PS – Throughout the year 2010 I will be a grad student but I never read anything for school so I probably won’t swear by anything, let alone try to repeat it to someone else.

  4. Well then, technically, you aren’t a grad student. Sorry.

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