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Vote buying

  • Jackson, Matthew O.
  • Dekel, Eddie
  • Wolinsky, Asher

We examine the consequences of vote buying, assuming this practice were allowed and free of stigma. Two parties competing in a binary election may purchase votes in a sequential bidding game via up-front binding payments and/or campaign promises (platforms) that are contingent upon the outcome of the election. We analyze the role of the parties’ budget constraints and voter preferences. For instance, if only campaign promises are allowed, then the winning party depends not only on the relative size of the budgets, but also on the excess support of the party with the a priori majority, where the excess support is measured in terms of the (minimal) total utility of supporting voters who are in excess of the majority needed to win. If up front vote buying is permitted, and voters care directly about how they vote (as a legislator would), then the determination of the winning party depends on a weighted comparison of the two parties’ budgets plus half of the total utility of their supporting voters. These results suggest that vote buying can lead to an inefficient party winning in equilibrium. We find that under some circumstances, if parties budgets are raised through donations, then vote buying can be efficient. Finally, we provide some results on vote buying in the face of uncertainty.

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Paper provided by California Institute of Technology, Division of the Humanities and Social Sciences in its series Working Papers with number 1215.

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Length: 37 pages
Date of creation: Mar 2005
Date of revision:
Publication status: Published:
Handle: RePEc:clt:sswopa:1215
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  1. Nicola Persico & Alessandro Lizzeri, 2001. "The Provision of Public Goods under Alternative Electoral Incentives," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 91(1), pages 225-239, March.
  2. Le Breton, Michel & Salanie, Francois, 2003. "Lobbying under political uncertainty," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 87(12), pages 2589-2610, December.
  3. Grossman, G.M. & Helpman, E., 1992. "Protection for Sale," Papers 21-92, Tel Aviv.
  4. Grossman, Sanford J. & Hart, Oliver D., 1988. "One share-one vote and the market for corporate control," Journal of Financial Economics, Elsevier, vol. 20(1-2), pages 175-202, January.
  5. Tobin, James, 1970. "On Limiting the Domain of Inequality," Journal of Law and Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 13(2), pages 263-77, October.
  6. Harris, Milton & Raviv, Artur, 1988. "Corporate control contests and capital structure," Journal of Financial Economics, Elsevier, vol. 20(1-2), pages 55-86, January.
  7. Bernheim, B Douglas & Whinston, Michael D, 1986. "Menu Auctions, Resource Allocation, and Economic Influence," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 101(1), pages 1-31, February.
  8. Neeman, Zvika, 1999. "The Freedom to Contract and the Free-Rider Problem," Journal of Law, Economics and Organization, Oxford University Press, vol. 15(3), pages 685-703, October.
  9. Philipson, Tomas J & Snyder, James M, Jr, 1996. " Equilibrium and Efficiency in an Organized Vote Market," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 89(3-4), pages 245-65, December.
  10. Stephen Ansolabehere & John M. de Figueiredo & James M. Snyder Jr, 2003. "Why is There so Little Money in U.S. Politics?," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 17(1), pages 105-130, Winter.
  11. Szentes, Balazs & Rosenthal, Robert W., 2003. "Beyond chopsticks: Symmetric equilibria in majority auction games," Games and Economic Behavior, Elsevier, vol. 45(2), pages 278-295, November.
  12. Roger B. Myerson, 1992. "Incentives to Cultivate Favored Minorities under Alternative Electoral Systems," Discussion Papers 1000, Northwestern University, Center for Mathematical Studies in Economics and Management Science.
  13. Laslier, Jean-Francois & Picard, Nathalie, 2002. "Distributive Politics and Electoral Competition," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 103(1), pages 106-130, March.
  14. Owen A. Lamont & Richard H. Thaler, 2003. "Anomalies: The Law of One Price in Financial Markets," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 17(4), pages 191-202, Fall.
  15. Avinash Dixit, 1996. "Special-Interest Lobbying and Endogenous Commodity Taxation," Eastern Economic Journal, Eastern Economic Association, vol. 22(4), pages 375-388, Fall.
  16. Dixit, Avinash K & Londregan, John, 1994. "The Determinants of Success of Special Interests in Redistributive Politics," CEPR Discussion Papers 1054, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
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