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Context-dependent voting and political ambiguity

  • Callander, Steven
  • Wilson, Catherine H.

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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Article provided by Elsevier in its journal Journal of Public Economics.

Volume (Year): 92 (2008)
Issue (Month): 3-4 (April)
Pages: 565-581

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Handle: RePEc:eee:pubeco:v:92:y:2008:i:3-4:p:565-581
Contact details of provider: Web page: http://www.elsevier.com/locate/inca/505578

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  1. Zeckhauser, Richard, 1969. "Majority Rule with Lotteries on Alternatives," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 83(4), pages 696-703, November.
  2. Amos Tversky & Itamar Simonson, 1993. "Context-Dependent Preferences," Management Science, INFORMS, vol. 39(10), pages 1179-1189, October.
  3. Thaler, Richard, 1980. "Toward a positive theory of consumer choice," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 1(1), pages 39-60, March.
  4. Cukierman, Alex & Alesina, Alberto, 1990. "The Politics of Ambiguity," Scholarly Articles 4552530, Harvard University Department of Economics.
  5. Huber, Joel & Payne, John W & Puto, Christopher, 1982. " Adding Asymmetrically Dominated Alternatives: Violations of Regularity and the Similarity Hypothesis," Journal of Consumer Research, University of Chicago Press, vol. 9(1), pages 90-98, June.
  6. Pratt, John W & Wise, David A & Zeckhauser, Richard, 1979. "Price Differences in Almost Competitive Markets," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 93(2), pages 189-211, May.
  7. Callander, Steven & Wilson, Catherine H., 2006. "Context-dependent Voting," Quarterly Journal of Political Science, now publishers, vol. 1(3), pages 227-254, July.
  8. Dhar, Ravi, 1997. " Consumer Preference for a No-Choice Option," Journal of Consumer Research, University of Chicago Press, vol. 24(2), pages 215-31, September.
  9. Anthony Downs, 1957. "An Economic Theory of Political Action in a Democracy," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 65, pages 135.
  10. Simonson, Itamar, 1989. " Choice Based on Reasons: The Case of Attraction and Compromise Effects," Journal of Consumer Research, University of Chicago Press, vol. 16(2), pages 158-74, September.
  11. Enriqueta Aragon├ęs & Andrew Postlewaite, 1999. "Ambiguity in election games," Economics Working Papers 364, Department of Economics and Business, Universitat Pompeu Fabra.
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