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Government & Politics

Case Western Mathematicians Consider the Problems of a Packed Primary

photo of Case Western Reserve University
CASE WESTERN RESERVE UNIVERSITY

With 24 candidates seeking the Democratic nomination for president, it may be mathematically impossible for polling to accurately determine a favorite.

That’s the analysis by a pair of mathematicians at Case Western Reserve University.

Alexander Strang is a PhD candidate who worked on the analysis. He points to something called the Condorcet Paradox.

The paradox considers a situation where there are three choices.

“If you do have these cyclic sequences where candidate A beats candidate B beats candidate C who loses to A, does that prevent you from picking a winner? And, in a real election when people’s preferences aren’t drawn at random, with what probability do you end up with a cycle that prevents there from being a winner?” 

Strang said things become more complicated when there are more candidates and the probability of determining a favorite decreases.

The study appears on the website The Conversation, which publishes commentary and analysis from academics.