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The welfare implications of electoral polarization

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  • Richard Weelden

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Abstract

I consider the welfare implications of polarization in the preferences of political candidates, for different distributions of voter preferences, in a model of repeated elections. Candidates care about policy and also have an opportunity to engage in rent-seeking when in office. When candidates’ preferences are polarized they choose non-converging policies if elected. This creates policy costs from not securing re-election, decreasing equilibrium rent-seeking, and, for appropriate parameters, increasing voter welfare. I show that increasing polarization among voters increases the range of parameters for which polarization in candidate preferences is socially optimal if only if utility functions are not too concave. Moreover, with multiple dimensions of policy disagreement, it is optimal to have greater polarization of candidate preferences in dimensions in which voters are more polarized if and only if utility functions are not too concave. I discuss the implications of these results for electoral competition in the United States. Copyright Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2015

Suggested Citation

  • Richard Weelden, 2015. "The welfare implications of electoral polarization," Social Choice and Welfare, Springer;The Society for Social Choice and Welfare, vol. 45(4), pages 653-686, December.
  • Handle: RePEc:spr:sochwe:v:45:y:2015:i:4:p:653-686
    DOI: 10.1007/s00355-015-0874-7
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    File URL: http://hdl.handle.net/10.1007/s00355-015-0874-7
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. repec:cup:apsrev:v:104:y:2010:i:03:p:519-542_00 is not listed on IDEAS
    2. Jean Guillaume Forand & John Duggan, 2013. "Markovian Elections," Working Papers 1305, University of Waterloo, Department of Economics, revised Oct 2013.
    3. John Ferejohn, 1986. "Incumbent performance and electoral control," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 50(1), pages 5-25, January.
    4. Richard Van Weelden, 2013. "Candidates, Credibility, and Re-election Incentives," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 80(4), pages 1622-1651.
    5. Robert Barro, 1973. "The control of politicians: An economic model," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 14(1), pages 19-42, March.
    6. Yuichiro Kamada Jr. & Fuhito Kojima Jr., 2014. "Voter Preferences, Polarization, and Electoral Policies," American Economic Journal: Microeconomics, American Economic Association, vol. 6(4), pages 203-236, November.
    7. John Duggan, 2000. "Repeated Elections with Asymmetric Information," Economics and Politics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 12(2), pages 109-135, July.
    8. Banks, Jeffrey S. & Duggan, John, 2008. "A Dynamic Model of Democratic Elections in Multidimensional Policy Spaces," Quarterly Journal of Political Science, now publishers, vol. 3(3), pages 269-299, October.
    9. Bernhardt, Dan & Campuzano, Larissa & Squintani, Francesco & Câmara, Odilon, 2009. "On the benefits of party competition," Games and Economic Behavior, Elsevier, vol. 66(2), pages 685-707, July.
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    Cited by:

    1. Gersbach, Hans & Muller, Philippe & Tejada, Oriol, 2016. "The Effects of Higher Re-election Hurdles and Costs of Policy Change on Political Polarization," CEPR Discussion Papers 11375, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
    2. César Martinelli & John Duggan, 2014. "The Political Economy of Dynamic Elections: A Survey and Some New Results," Working Papers 1403, Centro de Investigacion Economica, ITAM.
    3. repec:spr:sochwe:v:50:y:2018:i:4:d:10.1007_s00355-017-1098-9 is not listed on IDEAS
    4. Câmara, Odilon & Bernhardt, Dan, 2015. "Learning about challengers," Games and Economic Behavior, Elsevier, vol. 90(C), pages 181-206.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    D72; D60;

    JEL classification:

    • D72 - Microeconomics - - Analysis of Collective Decision-Making - - - Political Processes: Rent-seeking, Lobbying, Elections, Legislatures, and Voting Behavior
    • D60 - Microeconomics - - Welfare Economics - - - General

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