Game Design, Programming and running a one-man games business…

On the topic of voter happiness in 3 party countries

I’m currently balancing Australia in Democracy 4, and its tough as almost any starting condition seems to result in a depressingly small number of people supporting the current party. I have been fiddling with the numbers for this for hours, and its occurred to me that its SO much harder in a 3 party system, and the game may be having trouble conveying this…

Take this screenshot:

Thats the current voter breakdown at the start of the Australia mission. Actually a few people are quite clearly over the 50% mark (to the right) and thus are more happy than unhappy, and in a 2 party election, things here would be looking bad…but not catastrophic.

But in a 3 party system, only people who have happiness of 66%+ are going to vote for you. Your polling numbers are going to be an absolute nightmare. But on the other hand, you do NOT need 50% of the vote to win, only >33% in order to be the largest party in a coalition.

This leads me to another conclusion… The current system has the opposition party taking a 100% opposed view to you on all issues. A 3rd party, if it exists, will take a position between the two, meaning its generally going to be trying to please socialists & capitalists plus liberals & conservatives.

Put another way… the 2nd opposition party will always be pretty moderate. That gives them a bit of an advantage, as they can vacuum up votes from all over the spectrum.

I do NOT plan on actually modelling all the political stances of opposition parties. This is a HUGE undertaking and outside the scope of this game. However, I would like to improve the current situation.

One thought running through my mind is that the 3rd party perhaps should be assumed to be suffering from some sort of ‘small party disadvantage’. So instead of happiness mapping onto votes like this:

0-33% opposition
33-66% 3rd party
66%-100% player

It could map like this:
0-40% opposition
40-66% 3rd party
66%-100% player

…or something similar. I am just brainstorming this right now. I think that there are basically 2 problems apparent here:

  1. The game is maybe a bit too hard for the player in 3 party systems
  2. The simple display of voting intentions on the main screen is perhaps a bit pessimistic in 3 party systems.

Feedback and suggestions are most welcome.

3 thoughts on On the topic of voter happiness in 3 party countries

  1. Maybe the choice of Australia here is just an accident, and we’re talking about a 3 Party System because that’s the limitations of Democracy 4, but my immediate impression as an Aussie is “wait, what? This looks nothing like Australian politics!”

    I’d think of Australia as mostly a 2 party system, Labor (left) vs Liberal (right). There are several smaller parties, but you could regard the Greens as a 3rd party in Australia. But the third party here is not going to take a position between the two – the Greens are going to take a position even further left of Labor. (Think more like Bernie Sanders or AOC.) The Greens only got 10% of the primary vote at the last Australian election, and only won 1 of the 151 seats in parliament. Getting 33% of the national primary vote would blow the minds of Greens voters here!

    In the Australian case, maybe you’d model it more as two left parties, a smaller one with further-left policies, but that its presence poses a threat to the larger left party governing on their own with an outright majority. Obviously this is oversimplified, there are right-leaning voters who share policy views with the Greens too. And we actually have lots of small parties in Australia, some that are further-right of the Liberal-right here as well.

    The other catch in Australia is that we have compulsory voting. You don’t need citizens to reach 66% happiness / approval for people to come out and vote for you, you just need to be their least hated party for them to vote for you first. Though even with compulsory voting, about 5.5% hand in a blank, incorrect or somehow defaced ballot paper.

    But whether any of this actually makes for a fun game to play, I have no idea. But I’d definitely consider narrowing that 40 – 66% for the 3rd party, and maybe move them to scooping up the 0 – 15% happiness level / diametrically opposed if the player is playing as a right-leaning party, instead of the moderate 45 – 55% range.

  2. Yeah, its not an Australian thing, just a 3 party thing. I just happen to be balancing Australia right now.
    We don’t define a party as being left or far left, its just ‘opposed to you’, because your politics could be anywhere :D

    Note that this is just my terminology to say ‘opposition’ and ‘3rd party’. The player just sees two opposition parties. Maybe the 3rd party is 10x the support of the ‘opposition one’, it depends on circumstances. So for example, in your example, the ‘opposition’ party could be the greens on 10% and the third party could be much larger, and probably considered the ‘real’ opposition.

    Maybe ‘extreme party’ and ‘moderate party’ make more sense for when I talk about the opposition and the 3rd party.

  3. It’s super interesting to see you come up with model solutions to challenges like this. In Germany, we have so many parties, most of which are insignificant, but some of which are mostly relegated to coalition partners for the old, big parties. The complexity of influences, overlap and difference of party agendas, and strict rules (“we will never form a coalition with The Left”) — that’d be pretty hard to replicate! Especially since a 3 party system makes the dynamics so awkward already.

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