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A Model of Focusing in Political Choice

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  • Nunnari, Salvatore
  • Zapal, Jan

Abstract

This paper develops a theoretical model of voters' and politicians' behavior based on the notion that voters focus disproportionately on, and hence overweight, certain attributes of policies. We assume that policies have two attributes-benefits and costs-and that voters focus more on the attribute in which their options differ more. First, we consider exogenous policies and show that voters' focusing polarizes the electorate. Second, we consider the endogenous supply of policies by office-motivated politicians who take voters' distorted focus into account. We show that focusing leads to inefficient policies, which cater excessively to a subset of voters: social groups that are larger, have more distorted focus, and are more sensitive to changes in a single attribute are more influential. Finally, we show that augmenting the classical models of voting and electoral competition with focusing can contribute to explain puzzling stylized facts as the inverse correlation between income inequality and redistribution or the backlash effect of extreme policies.

Suggested Citation

  • Nunnari, Salvatore & Zapal, Jan, 2017. "A Model of Focusing in Political Choice," CEPR Discussion Papers 12407, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  • Handle: RePEc:cpr:ceprdp:12407
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Alberto Alesina & Francesco Passarelli, 2015. "Loss Aversion in Politics," NBER Working Papers 21077, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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    8. Anthony Downs, 1957. "An Economic Theory of Political Action in a Democracy," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 65, pages 135-135.
    9. Leland, Jonathan W, 1994. "Generalized Similarity Judgments: An Alternative Explanation for Choice Anomalies," Journal of Risk and Uncertainty, Springer, vol. 9(2), pages 151-172, October.
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    11. Heath, Timothy B & Chatterjee, Subimal, 1995. " Asymmetric Decoy Effects on Lower-Quality versus Higher-Quality Brands: Meta-analytic and Experimental Evidence," Journal of Consumer Research, Oxford University Press, vol. 22(3), pages 268-284, December.
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    Cited by:

    1. Dertwinkel-Kalt, Markus & Wenzel, Tobias, 2019. "Focusing and framing of risky alternatives," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 159(C), pages 289-304.
    2. repec:eee:poleco:v:55:y:2018:i:c:p:119-135 is not listed on IDEAS

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • D03 - Microeconomics - - General - - - Behavioral Microeconomics: Underlying Principles
    • D72 - Microeconomics - - Analysis of Collective Decision-Making - - - Political Processes: Rent-seeking, Lobbying, Elections, Legislatures, and Voting Behavior
    • D78 - Microeconomics - - Analysis of Collective Decision-Making - - - Positive Analysis of Policy Formulation and Implementation

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