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Using An Agent-Based Model to Test Institutional Variation: Creating a Counterfactual World

Case
By: Debra Leiter & Jack Reilly Published: 2019 | Product: SAGE Research Methods Cases in Political Science and International Relations
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Abstract

When examining institutions, we often wish we could create a counterfactual world—a world where everything but the institution itself is the same. Using agent-based models—computational models where we assign computer agents simple rules in a world we create and watch them interact—allows us to create and re-create the world as we see fit. Examining how party system size affects the way in which networks influence voter turnout, we use an extension of Fowler’s Turnout in A Small World agent-based model to show that third-party entry can have a negative effect on turnout. We then test an element of the model using empirical (observable) data.

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