Is the Voter Model a model for voters?
Fernandez-Gracia, J; Suchecki, K; Ramasco, JJ; San Miguel, M; Eguiluz, VM
Physical Review Letters 112, 158701 (2014)
The voter model has been studied extensively as a paradigmatic opinion dynamics model. However, its ability to model real opinion dynamics has not been addressed. We introduce a noisy voter model (accounting for social influence) with recurrent mobility of agents (as a proxy for social context), where the spatial and population diversity are taken as inputs to the model. We show that the dynamics can be described as a noisy diffusive process that contains the proper anisotropic coupling topology given by population and mobility heterogeneity. The model captures statistical features of U.S. presidential elections as the stationary vote-share fluctuations across counties and the long-range spatial correlations that decay logarithmically with the distance. Furthermore, it recovers the behavior of these properties when the geographical space is coarse grained at different scales—from the county level through congressional districts, and up to states. Finally, we analyze the role of the mobility range and the randomness in decision making, which are consistent with the empirical observations.