Signalling, Incumbency Advantage, and Optimal Reelection Thresholds
AbstractMuch literature on political behavior treats politicians as motivated by reelection, choosing actions to signal their types to voters. We identify two novel implications of models in which signalling incentives are important. First, because incumbents only care about clearing a reelection hurdle, signals will tend to cluster just above the threshold needed for reelection. This generates a skew distribution of signals leading to an incumbency advantage in the probability of election. Second, voters can exploit the signalling behavior of politicians by precommitting to a higher threshold for signals received. Raising the threshold discourages signalling effort by low quality politicians but encourages effort by high quality politicians, thus increasing the separation of signals and improving the selection function of an election. This precommitment has a simple institutional interpretation as a supermajority rule, requiring that incumbents exceed some fraction of votes greater than 50% to be reelected. A simple calibration suggests the average quality of US Congress members would be maximised by requiring a 57% vote share for reelection.
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Bibliographic InfoPaper provided by C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers in its series CEPR Discussion Papers with number 8832.
Date of creation: Feb 2012
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- Francesco Caselli & Thomas E. Cunningham & Massimo Morelli & Inés Moreno de Barreda, 2012. "Signalling, Incumbency Advantage, and Optimal Reelection Thresholds," NBER Working Papers 17833, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
- D72 - Microeconomics - - Analysis of Collective Decision-Making - - - Political Processes: Rent-seeking, Lobbying, Elections, Legislatures, and Voting Behavior
- D78 - Microeconomics - - Analysis of Collective Decision-Making - - - Positive Analysis of Policy Formulation and Implementation
- D82 - Microeconomics - - Information, Knowledge, and Uncertainty - - - Asymmetric and Private Information; Mechanism Design
This paper has been announced in the following NEP Reports:
- NEP-ALL-2012-03-28 (All new papers)
- NEP-CDM-2012-03-28 (Collective Decision-Making)
- NEP-CTA-2012-03-28 (Contract Theory & Applications)
- NEP-POL-2012-03-28 (Positive Political Economics)
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