NOTE: This was written back in 1996 with Java 1.0, which
unfortunately is no longer supported by all browsers. There should be
a big square field with dots and lines, a bar graph to its right, and
a few buttons and a text field below them. If only part of it
works... well, you can play with that. Sorry if it doesn't work for
Our traditional political model maps everyone's position on a line,
i.e. "right-wing" vs "left-wing". In reality, many people feel
"right-wing" on some issues and "left-wing" on others. A more realistic
model maps political positions into a plane, 3-space, or higher
("N-space"), where the number of dimensions is the number of separate
issues people care about.
This applet models an election with several candidates jockeying
for position to maximize their votes. It's greatly simplified from
reality, but demonstrates phenomena that really do happen.
This animated model is based on the following premises:
Political positions of voters and politicians can be represented in
N-space (in this case, a plane).
In an election, an educated voter will vote for the candidate that's
closest to them politically.
A self-interested candidate will adjust his/her position to maximize
the votes gotten.
The big square represents the political positions of the voting
public, who are evenly distributed. The colored dots are the candidates.
The colored lines divide the square into each candidate's "territory";
they illustrate which voters are closest to which candidates. Bigger
territories mean more votes.
Things to do
Drag the candidates around the field, and see how the voting
percentages change for different layouts. Try this with different
numbers of candidates.
Run the simulation, and the candidates will move in directions to
maximize their territory. A pattern will usually stabilize.
Different numbers of candidates give rise to different stable patterns.