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A theory of self-fulfilling political expectations

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  • Frisell, Lars

Abstract

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.

Suggested Citation

  • Frisell, Lars, 2009. "A theory of self-fulfilling political expectations," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 93(5-6), pages 715-720, June.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:pubeco:v:93:y:2009:i:5-6:p:715-720
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Cited by:

    1. N. Chesterley & P. Roberti, 2016. "Populism and Institutional Capture," Working Papers wp1086, Dipartimento Scienze Economiche, Universita' di Bologna.
    2. Guido Merzoni & Federico Trombetta, 2016. "The cost of doing the right thing. A model of populism with rent-seeking politicians and the economic crisis," DISEIS - Quaderni del Dipartimento di Economia internazionale, delle istituzioni e dello sviluppo dis1602, Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore, Dipartimento di Economia internazionale, delle istituzioni e dello sviluppo (DISEIS).
    3. Mike Felgenhauer, 2012. "Revealing information in electoral competition," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 153(1), pages 55-68, October.

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