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Ambiguity and Extremism in Elections

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  • Alberto Alesina
  • Richard Holden

Abstract

We analyze a model in which voters are uncertain about the policy preferences of candidates. Two forces affect the probability of electoral success: proximity to the median voter and campaign contributions. First, we show how campaign contributions affect elections. Then we show how the candidates may wish to announce a range of policy preferences, rather than a single point. This strategic ambiguity balances voter beliefs about the appeal of candidates both to the median voter and to the campaign contributors. If primaries precede a general election, they add another incentive for ambiguity, because in the primaries the candidates do not want to reveal too much information, to maintain some freedom of movement in the policy space for the general election. Ambiguity has an option value.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by David K. Levine in its series Levine's Working Paper Archive with number 122247000000002358.

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Date of creation: 29 Aug 2008
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Handle: RePEc:cla:levarc:122247000000002358

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References

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  1. Edward L. Glaeser & Giacomo A. M. Ponzetto & Jesse M. Shapiro, 2005. "Strategic Extremism: Why Republicans and Democrats Divide on Religious Values," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 120(4), pages 1283-1330, November.
  2. Campante, Filipe, 2007. "Redistribution in a Model of Voting and Campaign Contributions," Working Paper Series rwp07-045, Harvard University, John F. Kennedy School of Government.
  3. Banks, Jeffrey S & Sobel, Joel, 1987. "Equilibrium Selection in Signaling Games," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 55(3), pages 647-61, May.
  4. Alesina, Alberto & Cukierman, Alex, 1990. "The Politics of Ambiguity," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 105(4), pages 829-50, November.
  5. Alesina, Alberto & Rosenthal, Howard, 2000. "Polarized platforms and moderate policies with checks and balances," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 75(1), pages 1-20, January.
  6. Enriqueta Aragonés & Andrew Postlewaite, 1999. "Ambiguity in election games," Economics Working Papers 364, Department of Economics and Business, Universitat Pompeu Fabra.
  7. Callander, Steven & Wilkie, Simon, 2007. "Lies, damned lies, and political campaigns," Games and Economic Behavior, Elsevier, vol. 60(2), pages 262-286, August.
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Cited by:
  1. Egil Matsen & Øystein Thøgersen, 2010. "Habit formation, strategic extremism, and debt policy," IEW - Working Papers 468, Institute for Empirical Research in Economics - University of Zurich.
  2. Caterina Gennaioli, 2010. "Go Divisive or Not? How Political Campaigns Affect Turnout," CESifo Working Paper Series 3298, CESifo Group Munich.
  3. Tarhan, Simge, 2010. "Campaign Contributions and Political Polarization," MPRA Paper 29617, University Library of Munich, Germany, revised 15 Mar 2011.
  4. Hummel, Patrick, 2010. "Flip-flopping from primaries to general elections," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 94(11-12), pages 1020-1027, December.
  5. Raphael Boleslavsky & Christopher Cotton, 2012. "Information and Extremism in Elections," Working Papers 2013-04, University of Miami, Department of Economics.

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