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Not all election winners are equal: Satisfaction with democracy and the nature of the vote


  • Shane P. Singh

    Corresponding author
    1. Department of International Affairs, University of Georgia, USA
    • Address for correspondence: Shane P. Singh, Department of International Affairs, University of Georgia, 303 Candler Hall, Athens, GA 30602, USA. E-mail:

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It is well known that individuals who voted for the winning party in an election tend to be more satisfied with democracy than those who did not. However, many winners deviate from their first choice when voting. It is argued in this article that the mechanisms that engender satisfaction operate less forcefully among such winners, thereby lessening the impact of victory on satisfaction. Results show that the gap in satisfaction over electoral losers among these ‘non-optimal winners’ is, in fact, much smaller than that of ‘optimal winners’, who voted in line with their expressed preferences. A win matters more for those who have a bigger stake in victory. The article further explores how the effect of optimal victory on satisfaction varies across electoral systems.