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Advocacy and political convergence under preference uncertainty

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  • Reuben, Ernesto
  • Traxler, Christian
  • van Winden, Frans

Abstract

We study the formation of advocacy groups and how they can impact policy outcomes by revealing information about voters׳ preferences to uninformed political candidates. We conduct a laboratory experiment based on a two-candidate spatial electoral competition setting where the policy preferences of voters are (initially) unknown and change over time. In the control treatment candidates learn about the preferred policy of the median voter through the voting outcome of elections. In the advocacy treatments, voters can organize themselves into advocacy groups in order to reveal their policy preferences. We find that voters often overcome the collective action problem of forming an advocacy group. In fact, we observe the formation of both informative advocacy groups, which convey new information, and uninformative advocacy groups, which do not. Overall, advocacy groups significantly speed up the convergence to the preferred policy of the median voter. However, advocacy does not lead to higher earnings as the gains from faster convergence are offset by the costs of group formation.

Suggested Citation

  • Reuben, Ernesto & Traxler, Christian & van Winden, Frans, 2015. "Advocacy and political convergence under preference uncertainty," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 79(C), pages 16-36.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:eecrev:v:79:y:2015:i:c:p:16-36
    DOI: 10.1016/j.euroecorev.2015.07.003
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Keywords

    Advocacy groups; Information transmission; Political convergence; Voting; Median voter; Preference uncertainty;

    JEL classification:

    • H41 - Public Economics - - Publicly Provided Goods - - - Public Goods
    • C92 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Design of Experiments - - - Laboratory, Group Behavior
    • D63 - Microeconomics - - Welfare Economics - - - Equity, Justice, Inequality, and Other Normative Criteria and Measurement

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