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Two Voter Theorems and Some Real Consequences

Andrew Kennard
2 min readMay 3, 2021


So I learned about two different models of how politicians appeal to voters to win elections, and as usual, I have some tidbits and thoughts to share. Here come the theorums:

1.The median voter theorum. This theorum says that as long as no one abstains from voting, the politician who wins over the median voter will win the election (Kollman 493). By median voter, it means if you lined up all American voters according to ideology—with far-right conservatives on one end and far-left liberals on the other—the median voter is the one who would be at the exact middle of the line (Kollman 493). Therefore, the median voter theorum says, the politicians will generally be moderate and try to win the votes of moderate voters (Kollman 494).

Again, this model assumes that no one abstains—extreme voters may decide not to vote for a moderate candidate (Kollman 497). Also, a candidate must appeal to the median voter in their party during the primary election, which causes them to be more ideologically extreme in the primaries and more moderate in general elections (Kollman 496–497).

2.As you might have noticed, many our politicians in America aren’t all that moderate. There is another theorum, which says that candidates will take more ideologically extreme positions to whip up the support of intense partisans (Kollman 495). This is both to win these voters and groups’ support and campaign contributions; my professor says that people who are ideologically extreme donate more money to political causes (Kollman 495).

Which of these models is correct? Well, it depends on where on the political spectrum campaign contributions come from and whether or not the extreme voters decide to vote for the moderate candidate (Kollman 497). However, I also wonder what changes in campaign finance laws (see my previous post about the Citizens United v. FEC Supreme Court decision), mean for our elections.

If more ideologically extreme voters and groups tend to donate more money to political causes, and politicians shift their stances to attract more donations from these voters and groups, then maybe we should be asking how big of an effect campaign finance laws have on the partisan polarization that we’re dealing with today.


Kollman, Ken. The American Political System. 3rd ed., W. W. Norton & Company, Inc., 2017.



Andrew Kennard

Christian, writer, Eagle Scout, and Drake University Class of '24.