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A theory of self-fulfilling political expectations

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  • Frisell, Lars
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    Abstract

    In their pursuit of being re-elected, politicians might not choose high-quality policies but just conform to popular wisdom. The larger are the office spoils, and the more precise is an incumbent's knowledge of voter opinion, the more likely that she will resort to such populism. My main result is that the public's trust or distrust in politicians' behavior may be self-fulfilling. When voters assess the quality of an incumbent politician, they will compare her policy choices with their own prior opinion. If voters think that the incumbent was just trying to conform, a failure to do so will be even more damaging for the incumbent's election chances. However, this only increases the incumbent's incentives to conform, which indeed confirm voters' skepticism. Loosely put, a skeptic voter attitude tends to generate conformist politicians, while a trusting attitude tends to generate confident ones.

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    Bibliographic Info

    Article provided by Elsevier in its journal Journal of Public Economics.

    Volume (Year): 93 (2009)
    Issue (Month): 5-6 (June)
    Pages: 715-720

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    Handle: RePEc:eee:pubeco:v:93:y:2009:i:5-6:p:715-720

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    Web page: http://www.elsevier.com/locate/inca/505578

    Related research

    Keywords: Populism Pandering Political trust Electoral competition Candidate motivation;

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    1. Francesco Caselli & Massimo Morelli, 2001. "Bad Politicians," NBER Working Papers 8532, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    2. Stephen Morris, 1999. "Political Correctness," Cowles Foundation Discussion Papers 1242, Cowles Foundation for Research in Economics, Yale University.
    3. Eric Maskin & Jean Tirole, 2004. "The Politician and the Judge: Accountability in Government," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 94(4), pages 1034-1054, September.
    4. Harrington, Joseph E, Jr, 1993. "Economic Policy, Economic Performance, and Elections," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 83(1), pages 27-42, March.
    5. Prendergast, Canice, 1993. "A Theory of "Yes Men."," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 83(4), pages 757-70, September.
    6. Bernheim, B Douglas, 1994. "A Theory of Conformity," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 102(5), pages 841-77, October.
    7. Y. Stephen Chiu, 2002. "On the Feasibility of Unpopular Policies under Re-Election Concerns," Southern Economic Journal, Southern Economic Association, vol. 68(4), pages 841-858, April.
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