A theory of self-fulfilling political expectations
In their pursuit of being re-elected, politicians might not choose high-quality policies but just conform to popular wisdom. The larger are the office spoils, and the more precise is an incumbent's knowledge of voter opinion, the more likely that she will resort to such populism. My main result is that the public's trust or distrust in politicians' behavior may be self-fulfilling. When voters assess the quality of an incumbent politician, they will compare her policy choices with their own prior opinion. If voters think that the incumbent was just trying to conform, a failure to do so will be even more damaging for the incumbent's election chances. However, this only increases the incumbent's incentives to conform, which indeed confirm voters' skepticism. Loosely put, a skeptic voter attitude tends to generate conformist politicians, while a trusting attitude tends to generate confident ones.
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