Document Type

Working Paper

Publication Date


Working Paper Number

WP #14004, February 2014


The present paper examines when, for any given preference profile or set of individual preference orders, is it possible to define a procedure independent or objective aggregate ranking of the alternatives, such that the aggregate ranking qualifies as the “will of the people”. It also investigates what message is being conveyed by the profile, when different procedures come up with different aggregate rankings. Specifically, the paper establishes a profile decomposition methodology that allows us to answer these two questions and tests this methodology on ballot data from the Cambridge City Council elections. Our method is easy to implement and admits any number of candidates. The empirical results based on the ballot data provides new hard evidence of increasing political polarization amongst a section of the US voters.

JEL Classification

D70, D71, D72

File Format



45 pages

File Function

Very preliminary, for comments only.

Included in

Economics Commons