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The Politics of Ambiguity

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  • Cukierman, Alex
  • Alesina, Alberto

Abstract

Politicians face a trade-off between the policies that maximize their chances of reelection and their most preferred policies (or the policies most preferred by the constituency which they represent). This paper analyzes this trade-off in a dynamic electoral model in which the voters are not fully informed about the preferences of the incumbent. First, we show that the incumbent follows a policy which is intermediate between the other party's ideal policy and his own ideal policy. Second, we show that, often, the incumbent has an incentive to choose procedures which make it difficult for voters to pinpoint his preferences with absolute precision. Thus, politicians may prefer to be "ambiguous."

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File URL: http://dash.harvard.edu/bitstream/handle/1/4552530/alesina_politicsambiguity.pdf
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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by Harvard University Department of Economics in its series Scholarly Articles with number 4552530.

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Date of creation: 1990
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Publication status: Published in Quarterly Journal of Economics
Handle: RePEc:hrv:faseco:4552530

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  1. Alesina, Alberto & Spear, Stephen E., 1988. "An overlapping generations model of electoral competition," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 37(3), pages 359-379, December.
  2. Cukierman, Alex & Meltzer, Allan H, 1986. "A Positive Theory of Discretionary Policy, the Cost of Democratic Government and the Benefits of a Constitution," Economic Inquiry, Western Economic Association International, vol. 24(3), pages 367-88, July.
  3. McKelvey, Richard D, 1975. "Policy Related Voting and Electoral Equilibrium," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 43(5-6), pages 815-43, Sept.-Nov.
  4. Kenneth Rogoff & Anne Sibert, 1986. "Elections and Macroeconomic Policy Cycles," NBER Working Papers 1838, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  5. Alesina, Alberto, 1987. "Macroeconomic Policy in a Two-Party System as a Repeated Game," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 102(3), pages 651-78, August.
  6. Hinich, Melvin J., 1977. "Equilibrium in spatial voting: The median voter result is an artifact," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 16(2), pages 208-219, December.
  7. Kenneth Rogoff, 1987. "Equilibrium Political Budget Cycles," NBER Working Papers 2428, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  8. John Ledyard, 1984. "The pure theory of large two-candidate elections," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 44(1), pages 7-41, January.
  9. Alesina, Alberto, 1987. "Macroeconomic Policy in a Two-party System as a Repeated Game," Scholarly Articles 4552531, Harvard University Department of Economics.
  10. Coughlin, Peter & Nitzan, Shmuel, 1981. "Directional and local electoral equilibria with probabilistic voting," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 24(2), pages 226-239, April.
  11. Wittman, Donald, 1977. "Candidates with policy preferences: A dynamic model," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 14(1), pages 180-189, February.
  12. Cukierman, Alex, 1991. " Asymmetric Information and the Electoral Momentum of Public Opinion Polls," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 70(2), pages 181-213, May.
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