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Best of Both Distortion Worlds

by   Vasilis Gkatzelis, et al.

We study the problem of designing voting rules that take as input the ordinal preferences of n agents over a set of m alternatives and output a single alternative, aiming to optimize the overall happiness of the agents. The input to the voting rule is each agent's ranking of the alternatives from most to least preferred, yet the agents have more refined (cardinal) preferences that capture the intensity with which they prefer one alternative over another. To quantify the extent to which voting rules can optimize over the cardinal preferences given access only to the ordinal ones, prior work has used the distortion measure, i.e., the worst-case approximation ratio between a voting rule's performance and the best performance achievable given the cardinal preferences. The work on the distortion of voting rules has been largely divided into two worlds: utilitarian distortion and metric distortion. In the former, the cardinal preferences of the agents correspond to general utilities and the goal is to maximize a normalized social welfare. In the latter, the agents' cardinal preferences correspond to costs given by distances in an underlying metric space and the goal is to minimize the (unnormalized) social cost. Several deterministic and randomized voting rules have been proposed and evaluated for each of these worlds separately, gradually improving the achievable distortion bounds, but none of the known voting rules perform well in both worlds simultaneously. In this work, we prove that one can achieve the best of both worlds by designing new voting rules, that simultaneously achieve near-optimal distortion guarantees in both distortion worlds. We also prove that this positive result does not generalize to the case where the voting rule is provided with the rankings of only the top-t alternatives of each agent, for t<m.


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