The interplay of self-reflection, social interaction and random events in the dynamics of opinion flow in two-party democracies

Klaus Lichtenegger*, Tarik Hadzibeganovic

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


We propose a continuous process opinion formation model to study the dynamics of a multi-level relationship between voters, political parties, and facts in two-party democratic elections. In our model, opinions can take any real value between two extremes and an unaligned, moderate opinion state without a preference. Starting with a random opinion configuration, individual voter opinions evolve and change over time due to self-reflection, inter-personal communication, external media influence, and noise. Parties are influenced by their own ideologies, facts, and voters' opinions. Elections are held periodically and the party that is closer in opinion to the majority of voters forms the new government. The government policy is then expected to be in proximity to the voter opinions and the policies of the currently ruling political party. We analyze the tension of opinions as a measure of how dramatically opinions can disagree within a given sample of voters and the success of the government and parties as the degree of coincidence between the policies and facts. Our model generates realistic quasi-periodic alternations between incumbents and challengers that are typical for two-party systems. Moreover, our model shows that relative to other voters' strategies, conscious voting can lead to more successful governments of not only fact-oriented but also pragmatic and balanced political parties, irrespective of the strategies of the competing opposition parties. In addition, our simulations uncover several interesting features including less victories for strictly ideological or fact-oriented parties unless they include some aspects of populism or pragmatism. In this sense, our model can also describe situations where election outcomes are not necessarily based on votes for the current programs of competing parties and their placement on relevant issues, but instead result from voters' dissatisfaction with the previous government and the votes against it.

Original languageEnglish
Article number1650065
JournalInternational Journal of Modern Physics C
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 1 May 2016


  • attitude change
  • elections
  • mathematical model
  • Opinion dynamics
  • sociophysics
  • voting behavior

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Statistical and Nonlinear Physics
  • Mathematical Physics
  • Physics and Astronomy(all)
  • Computer Science Applications
  • Computational Theory and Mathematics


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