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The Politics of Ambiguity

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  • Cukierman, Alex
  • Alesina, Alberto

Abstract

Politicians face a trade-off between the policies that maximize their chances of reelection and their most preferred policies (or the policies most preferred by the constituency which they represent). This paper analyzes this trade-off in a dynamic electoral model in which the voters are not fully informed about the preferences of the incumbent. First, we show that the incumbent follows a policy which is intermediate between the other party's ideal policy and his own ideal policy. Second, we show that, often, the incumbent has an incentive to choose procedures which make it difficult for voters to pinpoint his preferences with absolute precision. Thus, politicians may prefer to be "ambiguous."

Suggested Citation

  • Cukierman, Alex & Alesina, Alberto, 1990. "The Politics of Ambiguity," Scholarly Articles 4552530, Harvard University Department of Economics.
  • Handle: RePEc:hrv:faseco:4552530
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. McKelvey, Richard D, 1975. "Policy Related Voting and Electoral Equilibrium," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 43(5-6), pages 815-843, Sept.-Nov.
    2. Alesina, Alberto & Spear, Stephen E., 1988. "An overlapping generations model of electoral competition," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 37(3), pages 359-379, December.
    3. Coughlin, Peter & Nitzan, Shmuel, 1981. "Directional and local electoral equilibria with probabilistic voting," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 24(2), pages 226-239, April.
    4. Hinich, Melvin J., 1977. "Equilibrium in spatial voting: The median voter result is an artifact," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 16(2), pages 208-219, December.
    5. Kenneth Rogoff & Anne Sibert, 1988. "Elections and Macroeconomic Policy Cycles," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 55(1), pages 1-16.
    6. Alberto Alesina, 1987. "Macroeconomic Policy in a Two-Party System as a Repeated Game," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 102(3), pages 651-678.
    7. Cukierman, Alex, 1991. "Asymmetric Information and the Electoral Momentum of Public Opinion Polls," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 70(2), pages 181-213, May.
    8. Rogoff, Kenneth, 1990. "Equilibrium Political Budget Cycles," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 80(1), pages 21-36, March.
    9. John Ledyard, 1984. "The pure theory of large two-candidate elections," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 44(1), pages 7-41, January.
    10. Alesina, Alberto, 1987. "Macroeconomic Policy in a Two-party System as a Repeated Game," Scholarly Articles 4552531, Harvard University Department of Economics.
    11. Wittman, Donald, 1977. "Candidates with policy preferences: A dynamic model," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 14(1), pages 180-189, February.
    12. Cukierman, Alex & Meltzer, Allan H, 1986. "A Positive Theory of Discretionary Policy, the Cost of Democratic Government and the Benefits of a Constitution," Economic Inquiry, Western Economic Association International, vol. 24(3), pages 367-388, July.
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