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A Signaling Model of Informative and Manipulative Political Action


  • Lohmann, Susanne


I develop a signaling model of mass political action. I establish that rational, self-interested individuals may have incentives to engage in costly political action despite a free-rider problem. Their political actions are informative for a political leader who rationally takes a cue from the size of the protest movement. However, some information is trapped in extremist and rationally apathetic pockets of the society. Some extremists take political action regardless of their private information, to manipulate the political leader's decision. Others abstain hoping to benefit if the leader makes an uninformed decision. Rationally apathetic moderates abstain because, being nearly indifferent between the policy alternatives, they do not find it worthwhile to incur the cost of taking action. Only activist moderates take informative political action. The political leader discounts the observed turnout for extremist political action and shifts policy if the estimated number of activist moderates exceeds a critical threshold.

Suggested Citation

  • Lohmann, Susanne, 1993. "A Signaling Model of Informative and Manipulative Political Action," American Political Science Review, Cambridge University Press, vol. 87(2), pages 319-333, June.
  • Handle: RePEc:cup:apsrev:v:87:y:1993:i:02:p:319-333_09

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