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Case Western Mathematicians Consider the Problems of a Packed Primary

photo of Case Western Reserve University

With 24 candidates seeking the Democratic nomination for president, it may be mathematically impossible for polling to accurately determine a favorite.

That’s the analysis by a pair of mathematicians at Case Western Reserve University.

Alexander Strang is a PhD candidate who worked on the analysis. He points to something called the Condorcet Paradox.

The paradox considers a situation where there are three choices.

“If you do have these cyclic sequences where candidate A beats candidate B beats candidate C who loses to A, does that prevent you from picking a winner? And, in a real election when people’s preferences aren’t drawn at random, with what probability do you end up with a cycle that prevents there from being a winner?” 

Strang said things become more complicated when there are more candidates and the probability of determining a favorite decreases.

The study appears on the website The Conversation, which publishes commentary and analysis from academics.