In political systems and large organizations, ultimate decision makers are usually just a small subset of all actors in the social system. To arrive at acceptable decisions, decision makers have to take into account the preferences of other actors in the system. Typically preferences of more interested and more powerful actors are weighted heavier than those of less interested and powerful actors. This implies that the total leverage of an actor on the decision is determined by the combination of his power (his potential) and his interest (his willingness to mobilize his power). As the exact level of an actor's leverage is difficult to estimate for the other actors in the system, an actor is able to optimize his effects on outcomes of decisions by providing strategic information.
In this paper, first an analytic solution is presented for the optimization of strategic leverage in collective decision making by one single actor. In this solution, the actor makes assumptions about the leverage other actors will show in decision making. Subsequently, the actor optimizes the outcomes of decisions by manipulating the distribution of his leverage over a set of issues.
The analytic solution can be theoretically interpreted by decomposing the solution into three terms, the expected external leverage of the other actors on the issue, the evaluation of the deviance of the expected from the preferred outcome of the issue, and the restrictions on the distribution of leverage over the issues. The higher the expectation of the leverages the other actors will allocate to the issue, the less an actor is inclined to allocate leverage to the issue. The higher the evaluation of the deviance, the more an actor is inclined to allocate leverage to the issue. This is restricted, however, by the required distribution of leverages over the issues. The researcher is able to manipulate these restrictions to investigate its consequences for the outcomes.
In the next step, we investigate whether we can find a Nash equilibrium if all actors optimize their leverage simultaneously. Under certain conditions, a Nash equilibrium can be found by an iterative process in which actors update their estimates oh each other's leverages on the basis of what the other actors have shown in previous iterations.
Application of the model to artificial data shows that actors with strong preferences in the center have more possibilities to realize good outcomes than other actors. On the basis of an empirical application it is shown that a Nash equilibrium does not always arise after a large number of iterations unless actors have learning capabilities or are severely restricted in their strategic behavior.