Context-dependent voting and political ambiguity
In recent decades psychologists have shown that the standard model of individual choice is often violated. One regularly observed violation is that choices are influenced by the decision context. To incorporate these effects into politics, we introduce a theory of context-dependent voting and apply it to the puzzle of why candidates are so frequently ambiguous in their policy pronouncements. We show that context-dependent voters develop a taste for ambiguity, even when they evaluate distances quadratically and exhibit traditional risk aversion. Turning to aggregate effects, we incorporate context-dependent voting into a model of electoral competition and show that strategic candidates respond in equilibrium to context-dependent voters by offering ambiguous platforms, thereby affecting the policy outcome.
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