Roni Lehrer, Gijs Schumacher
Governator vs. Hunter and Aggregator: A simulation of party competition with vote-seeking and office-seeking rules

PloS one, 2018:

The policy positions parties choose are central to both attracting voters and forming coalition governments. How then should parties choose positions to best represent voters? Laver and Sergenti show that in an agent-based model with boundedly rational actors a decision rule (Aggregator) that takes the mean policy position of its supporters is the best rule to achieve high congruence between voter preferences and party positions. But this result only pertains to representation by the legislature, not representation by the government. To evaluate this we add a coalition formation procedure with boundedly rational parties to the Laver and Sergenti model of party competition. We also add two new decision rules that are sensitive to government formation outcomes rather than voter positions. We develop two simulations: a single-rule one in which parties with the same rule compete and an evolutionary simulation in which parties with different rules compete. In these simulations we analyze party behavior under a large number of different parameters that describe real-world variance in political parties’ motives and party system characteristics. Our most important conclusion is that Aggregators also produce the best match between government policy and voter preferences. Moreover, even though citizens often frown upon politicians’ interest in the prestige and rents that come with winning political office (office pay-offs), we find that citizens actually receive better representation by the government if politicians are motivated by these office pay-offs in contrast to politicians with ideological motivations (policy pay-offs). Finally, we show that while more parties are linked to better political representation, how parties choose policy positions affects political representation as well. Overall, we conclude that to understand variation in the quality of political representation scholars should look beyond electoral systems and take into account variation in party behavior as well.