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How Important is the Credibility Problem in Politics? Evidence from State-Level Abortion Legislation

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  • Francisco Rodríguez

    ()
    (Department of Economics, Wesleyan University)

Abstract

This paper proposes a simple mechanism for evaluating the relevance of credibility problems in politics. If candidates are capable of making credible policy promises, we will not expect them to systematically adopt platforms that entail large probabilities of losing an election. This is because the adoption of very extreme platforms has the effect of shifting expected policies systematically away from their ideal points. For candidates who lack the capacity of making credible commitments, in contrast, policy platforms are simply a reflection of their preferences, which may well be very extreme. I show that this fact implies that when politicians are credible the correlation between candidates preferences and expected policies will always be positive, whereas when they lack credibility the correlation can be negative. Empirical tests on a panel of US abortion preferences and legislation show that the correlation between the preferences of party constituents and enacted policies is consistently negative, a result that strongly suggests the existence of significant credibility problems.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by Wesleyan University, Department of Economics in its series Wesleyan Economics Working Papers with number 2006-014.

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Length: 32 pages
Date of creation: Apr 2006
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:wes:weswpa:2006-014

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  1. Tim Besley & Stephen Coate, . "An Economic Model of Representative Democracy," Penn CARESS Working Papers ecf70d639d700dba5327ab0c8, Penn Economics Department.
  2. Raghabendra Chattopadhyay & Esther Duflo, 2004. "Women as policy makers: Evidence from a randomized policy experiment in india," Framed Field Experiments 00224, The Field Experiments Website.
  3. Rivers, Douglas & Vuong, Quang H., 1988. "Limited information estimators and exogeneity tests for simultaneous probit models," Journal of Econometrics, Elsevier, vol. 39(3), pages 347-366, November.
  4. Martin J. Osborne & Al Slivinksi, 1995. "A Model of Political Competition with Citizen-Candidates," Department of Economics Working Papers 1995-01, McMaster University.
  5. David S. Lee & Enrico Moretti & Matthew J. Butler, 2004. "Do Voters Affect Or Elect Policies? Evidence from the U. S. House," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 119(3), pages 807-859, August.
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