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Politician's Reputation and Policy (Un)persistence


  • Iconio Garrì

    () (Università Cattolica)


We consider a political career concern model where politicians differ in their information on the states of the world in different periods and the outcome of a policy in different periods depends on the same state of the world. We show that a politician may continue to implement the past policy even when a policy change would be socially preferable (perverse policy persistence): changing his mind would indeed damage his reputation, and so reduce his probability of being reelected. Under the standard assumption that once ousted from office a politician cannot run again for election, the old politician is never reelected (incumbency disadvantage). However, when there is a positive probability that a politician who was ousted from office in the past will stand for reelection in the future, reputational concern may induce a new politician not to continue the policy introduced by another politician even when this is not socially desirable (perverse policy unpersistence): confirming a previous decision made by another politician would indeed improve the reputation of a potential rival in the next elections, and so reduce his probability of being reelected. When equilibrium exhibits policy persistence by the incumbent politician and policy unpersistence by the new politician, the voters' choice between the two politicians is actually a choice between changing or not changing the policy introduced in the previous period. Since politicians have policy expertise, voters believe that the initial policy is more likely to be the optimal one, and so they reelect the candidate who implemented it, i.e., the incumbent politician (incumbency advantage).

Suggested Citation

  • Iconio Garrì, 2008. "Politician's Reputation and Policy (Un)persistence," DISCE - Quaderni dell'Istituto di Teoria Economica e Metodi Quantitativi itemq0851, Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore, Dipartimenti e Istituti di Scienze Economiche (DISCE).
  • Handle: RePEc:ctc:serie6:itemq0851

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Schultz, Christian, 2008. "Information, polarization and term length in democracy," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 92(5-6), pages 1078-1091, June.
    2. Jeffrey C. Ely & Juuso Välimäki, 2003. "Bad Reputation," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 118(3), pages 785-814.
    3. Kreps, David M. & Wilson, Robert, 1982. "Reputation and imperfect information," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 27(2), pages 253-279, August.
    4. Banks, Jeffrey S. & Sundaram, Rangarajan K., 1998. "Optimal Retention in Agency Problems," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 82(2), pages 293-323, October.
    5. Coate, Stephen & Morris, Stephen, 1995. "On the Form of Transfers in Special Interests," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 103(6), pages 1210-1235, December.
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    More about this item


    Policy persistence; policy unpersistence; reputation; incumbency advantage; incumbency disadvantage; bad reputation.;

    JEL classification:

    • D72 - Microeconomics - - Analysis of Collective Decision-Making - - - Political Processes: Rent-seeking, Lobbying, Elections, Legislatures, and Voting Behavior
    • D82 - Microeconomics - - Information, Knowledge, and Uncertainty - - - Asymmetric and Private Information; Mechanism Design

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