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Fiscal Policy, Government Polarization, and the Economic Literacy of Voters

Author

Listed:
  • Samuele Murtinu

    (University of Groningen)

  • Giulio Piccirilli

    (Universitas Mercatorum)

  • Agnese Sacchi

    (Sapienza University of Rome & Governance and Economics research Network (GEN))

Abstract

We model a two-parties electoral game in an environment where voters are imperfectly informed on the administrative ability of each party. In equilibrium, parties try to manipulate voters’ beliefs and implement fiscal policies that are looser than the social optimum. The size of this deviation from optimality increases with the incentive of parties to manipulate, the voters’ information disadvantage, and the interaction between these two elements. We test our theoretical predictions on a sample of 23 OECD countries over the period 1999–2008. We measure the incentive to manipulate voters’ beliefs through the ideological cohesion of the cabinet (i.e. government polarization), and the scope to manipulate such beliefs through the level of voters’ economic literacy. We find that polarized governments tend to worsen fiscal balances, and this is more likely in countries where the voters’ economic literacy is low. However, such tendency vanishes as literacy increases, suggesting that polarization leads to biased fiscal policies only when there is enough room for manipulation. Our results remain stable after controlling for potentially confounding differences across countries and over time – such as individuals’ education attainments, electoral and institutional systems, voter turnout –, several types of falsification tests, time dynamics and unobserved heterogeneity.

Suggested Citation

  • Samuele Murtinu & Giulio Piccirilli & Agnese Sacchi, 2016. "Fiscal Policy, Government Polarization, and the Economic Literacy of Voters," Working papers 50, Società Italiana di Economia Pubblica.
  • Handle: RePEc:ipu:wpaper:50
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    More about this item

    Keywords

    budget balance; government polarization; electoral game; economic literacy;
    All these keywords.

    JEL classification:

    • D72 - Microeconomics - - Analysis of Collective Decision-Making - - - Political Processes: Rent-seeking, Lobbying, Elections, Legislatures, and Voting Behavior
    • E62 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Macroeconomic Policy, Macroeconomic Aspects of Public Finance, and General Outlook - - - Fiscal Policy
    • H62 - Public Economics - - National Budget, Deficit, and Debt - - - Deficit; Surplus

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