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Signaling Character in Electoral Competition


  • Navin Kartik
  • R. Preston McAfee


We study a one-dimensional Hotelling-Downs model of electoral competition with the following innovation: a fraction of candidates have "character" and are exogenously committed to a campaign platform; this is unobservable to voters. Character is desirable, and a voter's utility is a convex combination of standard policy preferences and her assessment of a candidate's character. This structure induces a signaling game between strategic candidates and voters, since a policy platform affects voters' utilities not only directly, but also indirectly through inferences about a candidate's character. The model generates a number of predictions, starting with a failure of the median voter theorem. (JEL D72, D82)

Suggested Citation

  • Navin Kartik & R. Preston McAfee, 2007. "Signaling Character in Electoral Competition," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 97(3), pages 852-870, June.
  • Handle: RePEc:aea:aecrev:v:97:y:2007:i:3:p:852-870 Note: DOI: 10.1257/aer.97.3.852

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Ansolabehere, Stephen & Snyder, James M, Jr, 2000. "Valence Politics and Equilibrium in Spatial Election Models," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 103(3-4), pages 327-336, June.
    2. Banks, Jeffrey S., 1990. "A model of electoral competition with incomplete information," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 50(2), pages 309-325, April.
    3. Aragones, Enriqueta & Palfrey, Thomas R., 2002. "Mixed Equilibrium in a Downsian Model with a Favored Candidate," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 103(1), pages 131-161, March.
    4. Steven Callander, 2008. "Political Motivations," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 75(3), pages 671-697.
    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.
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    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • D72 - Microeconomics - - Analysis of Collective Decision-Making - - - Political Processes: Rent-seeking, Lobbying, Elections, Legislatures, and Voting Behavior
    • D82 - Microeconomics - - Information, Knowledge, and Uncertainty - - - Asymmetric and Private Information; Mechanism Design


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