Private polling in elections and voter welfare
We study elections in which two candidates poll voters about their preferred policies before taking policy positions. In the essentially unique equilibrium, candidates who receive moderate signals adopt more extreme platforms than their information suggests, but candidates with more extreme signals may moderate their platforms. Policy convergence does not maximize voters' welfare. Although candidates' platforms diverge in equilibrium, they do not do so as much as voters would like. We find that the electorate always prefers less correlation in candidate signals, and thus private over public polling. Some noise in the polling technology raises voters' welfare.
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