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Electoral Competition through Issue Selection

Author

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  • Enriqueta Aragonès
  • Micael Castanheira
  • Marco Giani

Abstract

Politics must tackle multiple issues at once. In a first-best world, political competition constrains parties to prioritize issues according to the voters' true concerns. In the real world, the opposite also happens: parties manipulate voter priorities by emphasizing issues selectively during the political campaign. This phenomenon, known as priming, should allow parties to pay less attention to the issues that they intend to mute. We develop a model of endogenous issue ownership in which two vote-seeking parties (i) invest to attract voters with "better" policy proposals and (ii) choose a communication campaign to focus voter attention on specific issues. We identify novel feedbacks between communication and investment. In particular, we find that stronger priming effects can backfire by constraining parties to invest more resources in all issues, including the ones they would otherwise intend to mute. We also identify under which conditions parties prefer to focus on their "historical issues" or to engage in issue stealing. Typically, the latter happens when priming effects are strong, and historical reputations differentiates parties less.

Suggested Citation

  • Enriqueta Aragonès & Micael Castanheira & Marco Giani, 2012. "Electoral Competition through Issue Selection," Working Papers 641, Barcelona Graduate School of Economics.
  • Handle: RePEc:bge:wpaper:641
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Cited by:

    1. Ying Chen & Hülya Eraslan, 2017. "Dynamic Agenda Setting," American Economic Journal: Microeconomics, American Economic Association, vol. 9(2), pages 1-32, May.
    2. Burkhard Schipper & Hee Yeul Woo, 2014. "Political Awareness, Microtargeting of Voters, and Negative Electoral Campaigning," Working Papers 148, University of California, Davis, Department of Economics.
    3. Prato, Carlo & Wolton, Stephane, 2014. "The Voters' Curses: The Upsides and Downsides of Political Engagement," MPRA Paper 53482, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    4. Mandel, Antoine & Venel, Xavier, 2020. "Dynamic competition over social networks," European Journal of Operational Research, Elsevier, vol. 280(2), pages 597-608.
    5. Antoine Mandel & Xavier Venel, 2017. "Dynamic competition over social networks Dynamic competition over social networks," Université Paris1 Panthéon-Sorbonne (Post-Print and Working Papers) halshs-01524453, HAL.
    6. Hughes, Niall, 2020. "Strategic Voting in Two-Party Legislative Elections," MPRA Paper 100363, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    7. Elliott Ash & Massimo Morelli & Richard Van Weelden, 2015. "Elections and Divisiveness: Theory and Evidence," NBER Working Papers 21422, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    8. Denter, Philipp, 2020. "Campaign contests," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 127(C).
    9. Francesco Drago & Roberto Galbiati & Francesco Sobbrio, 2020. "The Political Cost of Being Soft on Crime: Evidence from a Natural Experiment," Journal of the European Economic Association, European Economic Association, vol. 18(6), pages 3305-3336.
    10. Matthias Wrede, 2019. "The incumbent’s preference for imperfect commitment," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 180(3), pages 285-300, September.
    11. Bellani, Luna & Fabella, Vigile Marie & Scervini, Francesco, 2020. "Strategic Compromise, Policy Bundling and Interest Group Power," IZA Discussion Papers 13924, Institute of Labor Economics (IZA).
    12. Denter, Philipp, 2013. "A theory of communication in political campaigns," Economics Working Paper Series 1302, University of St. Gallen, School of Economics and Political Science.
    13. Prato, Carlo & Wolton, Stephane, 2018. "Rational ignorance, populism, and reform," European Journal of Political Economy, Elsevier, vol. 55(C), pages 119-135.
    14. Osório, António (António Miguel), 2018. "Conflict and Competition over Multi-Issues," Working Papers 2072/306550, Universitat Rovira i Virgili, Department of Economics.
    15. Fourati, Maleke & Gratton, Gabriele & Grosjean, Pauline, 2019. "Render unto Caesar: Taxes, charity, and political Islam," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 119(C), pages 114-146.
    16. Jacopo Bizzotto & Benjamin Solow, 2019. "Electoral Competition with Strategic Disclosure," Games, MDPI, Open Access Journal, vol. 10(3), pages 1-17, July.
    17. Schipper, Burkhard C. & Woo, Hee Yeul, 2019. "Political Awareness, Microtargeting of Voters, and Negative Electoral Campaigning," Quarterly Journal of Political Science, now publishers, vol. 14(1), pages 41-88, January.
    18. Pau Balart & Agustin Casas & Orestis Troumpounis, 2019. "Technological change, campaign spending and polarization," Working Papers 269238020, Lancaster University Management School, Economics Department.
    19. Prato, Carlo & Wolton, Stephane, 2013. "Rational Ignorance, Elections, and Reform," MPRA Paper 68638, University Library of Munich, Germany, revised 10 Dec 2015.
    20. Zhang, Qiaoxi, 2020. "Vagueness in multidimensional proposals," Games and Economic Behavior, Elsevier, vol. 121(C), pages 307-328.
    21. Antoine Mandel & Xavier Venel, 2017. "Dynamic competition over social networks Dynamic competition over social networks," Post-Print halshs-01524453, HAL.
    22. Stephen Ansolabehere & M. Socorro Puy, 2015. "Issue-salience, Issue-divisiveness and Voting Decisions," Working Papers 2015-01, Universidad de Málaga, Department of Economic Theory, Málaga Economic Theory Research Center.

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    More about this item

    Keywords

    party strategy; salience; issue selection and ownership; priming;
    All these keywords.

    JEL classification:

    • D72 - Microeconomics - - Analysis of Collective Decision-Making - - - Political Processes: Rent-seeking, Lobbying, Elections, Legislatures, and Voting Behavior
    • H11 - Public Economics - - Structure and Scope of Government - - - Structure and Scope of Government

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