July 13, 2022

Harnessing Condorcet Methods to Improve Decision-making Based on Ranked Data


Decision-makers must often choose between multiple alternatives based on their relative merits across a variety of criteria. These multiple-criteria decision-making (MCDM) problems must be approached in an objective, measurable, and transparent fashion to obtain well-supported outcomes. The challenge of using sets of ranked data to identify the optimal choice is not unlike the challenge of using ranked ballots to identify the winner of an election in a preference voting system. As such, the methods of rank aggregation used in elections can be applied to help resolve MCDM problems. Previous research into the design of elections and ballots has yielded many algorithms with well-understood properties. A subset of these, called Condorcet methods, reliably identify the “Condorcet winner,” if it exists, giving the result that would defeat any other in a pairwise comparison. That, in addition to several other desirable qualities, makes Condorcet methods like the Schulze method, Ranked Pairs, and Copeland’s method, effective and scalable means for tackling MCDM problems. These rank aggregation methods have been implemented in JavaScript functions for incorporation into a web-based MCDM decision tool. These algorithms can be applied in a wide variety of contexts (for example, determining the “best” environmental remediation method or selecting a subcontractor) to facilitate effective decision-making. The performance of the JavaScript Condorcet prototype tool was compared across the implemented algorithms and with both a non-Condorcet rank aggregation method as well as an implementation of the Simple Multi-Attribute Rating Technique (SMART) algorithm.

Published: July 13, 2022


Parzen E.A., and C.D. Johnson. 2021. Harnessing Condorcet Methods to Improve Decision-making Based on Ranked Data Richland, WA: Pacific Northwest National Laboratory.