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The Optimal Degree of Polarization

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  • Ioulia V. Ossokina

    ()
    (Erasmus University Rotterdam)

  • Otto Swank

    ()
    (Erasmus University Rotterdam)

Abstract

In the literature on electoral politics full convergence of policy platforms is usually regarded as socially optimal. Thereason is that risk-averse voters prefer a sure middle-of-the-road policy to a lottery of two extremes with the sameexpectation. In this paper we study the normative implications of convergence in a simple model of electoralcompetition, in which parties are uncertain about voters' preferences. We show that if political parties haveincomplete information about voters' preferences, the voters may prefer some degree of policy divergence. Theintuition is that policy divergence enables voters to correct policies that are based on a wrong perception of theirdesires.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by Tinbergen Institute in its series Tinbergen Institute Discussion Papers with number 01-063/1.

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Date of creation: 02 Jul 2001
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Handle: RePEc:dgr:uvatin:20010063

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Keywords: Elections; Policy divergence; Probabilistic voting; Voters' preferences;

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  1. Ignacio Ortuno-Ortin & Christian Schultz, 2005. "Public Funding of Political Parties," Journal of Public Economic Theory, Association for Public Economic Theory, vol. 7(5), pages 781-791, December.
  2. Roger B. Myerson, 1995. "Analysis of Democratic Institutions: Structure, Conduct and Performance," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 9(1), pages 77-89, Winter.
  3. Wittman, Donald, 1977. "Candidates with policy preferences: A dynamic model," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 14(1), pages 180-189, February.
  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. Alesina, Alberto, 1988. "Credibility and Policy Convergence in a Two-Party System with Rational Voters," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 78(4), pages 796-805, September.
  6. Narwa, Daniel, 2001. "How general should the proximity model be?," European Journal of Political Economy, Elsevier, vol. 17(1), pages 53-74, March.
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Cited by:
  1. Hortala-Vallve, Rafael & Esteve-Volart, Berta, 2011. "Voter turnout and electoral competition in a multidimensional policy space," European Journal of Political Economy, Elsevier, vol. 27(2), pages 376-384, June.
  2. Silvia Dominguez-Martinez & Otto Swank, 2006. "Polarization, Information Collection and Electoral Control," Social Choice and Welfare, Springer, Springer, vol. 26(3), pages 527-545, June.
  3. Silvia Dominguez Martinez & Otto H. Swank, 2004. "Polarization, Information Collection and Electoral Control," Tinbergen Institute Discussion Papers 04-035/1, Tinbergen Institute.

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