Expressive voting and electoral equilibrium

Geoffrey Brennan, Alan Hamlin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


There are two rival accounts of rational voting in the public choice tradition: the mainstream instrumental account, that sees the vote as a revelation of preference over possible electoral outcomes, essentially analogous to a market choice; and the expressive account, that sees the vote as expressing support for one or other electoral options, rather like cheering at a football match. This paper attempts to lay out some of the implications of the expressive account of voting for the issue of who votes as well as for the nature of political equilibrium, and to compare these implications with those derived from the instrumental account. We also identify and discuss the alternative views of the domain of electoral politics associated with the instrumental and expressive accounts of voting, and sketch a route towards the integration of expressive and instrumental ideas in the analysis of rational electoral politics.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)149-175
Number of pages26
JournalPublic Choice
Issue number1-2
Publication statusPublished - 1998


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