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Does informative media commentary reduce politicians' incentives to pander?

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  • Ashworth, Scott
  • Shotts, Kenneth W.
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    Abstract

    Elections sometimes give policy makers incentives to pander, i.e., to implement a policy that voters think is in their best interest, even though the policy maker knows that a different policy is actually better for the voters. Pandering incentives are typically attenuated when voters learn, prior to the election, whether the policy chosen by the incumbent truly was in their best interest. This suggests that the media can improve accountability by reporting to voters information about whether an incumbent made good policy choices. We show that, although media monitoring does sometimes eliminate the incumbent's incentive to pander, in other cases it makes the problem of pandering worse. Furthermore, in some circumstances incumbent incentives are improved when the media acts as a "yes man"--suppressing some information that indicates the policy maker made the wrong choice. We explain these seemingly paradoxical results by focusing on how media commentary affects voters' tendency to apply an asymmetric burden of proof to the incumbent, based on whether she pursues popular or unpopular policies.

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    Bibliographic Info

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

    Volume (Year): 94 (2010)
    Issue (Month): 11-12 (December)
    Pages: 838-847

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    Handle: RePEc:eee:pubeco:v:94:y:2010:i:11-12:p:838-847

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

    Related research

    Keywords: Elections Pandering Media;

    References

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    1. Scharfstein, David. & Stein, Jeremy C., 1988. "Herd behavior and investment," Working papers WP 2062-88., Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Sloan School of Management.
    2. Tim Groseclose & Jeffrey Milyo, 2005. "A Measure of Media Bias," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 120(4), pages 1191-1237, November.
    3. Matthew Gentzkow & Jesse Shapiro, 2005. "Media Bias and Reputation," NBER Working Papers 11664, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    4. Eric Maskin, 2003. "The Politician and the Judge: Accountability in Government," Theory workshop papers 505798000000000076, UCLA Department of Economics.
    5. Matthew Gentzkow & Jesse M. Shapiro, 2006. "What Drives Media Slant? Evidence from U.S. Daily Newspapers," NBER Working Papers 12707, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    6. Andrea Prat, 2002. "The Wrong Kind of Transparency," STICERD - Theoretical Economics Paper Series 439, Suntory and Toyota International Centres for Economics and Related Disciplines, LSE.
    7. Sushil Bikhchandani & David Hirshleifer & Ivo Welch, 2010. "A theory of Fads, Fashion, Custom and cultural change as informational Cascades," Levine's Working Paper Archive 1193, David K. Levine.
    8. Egorov, Georgy & Guriev, Sergei & Sonin, Konstantin, 2006. "Media Freedom, Bureaucratic Incentives and the Resource Curse," CEPR Discussion Papers 5748, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
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    Cited by:
    1. Warren, Patrick L., 2012. "Independent auditors, bias, and political agency," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 96(1), pages 78-88.
    2. Fu, Qiang & Li, Ming, 2014. "Reputation-concerned policy makers and institutional status quo bias," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 110(C), pages 15-25.

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