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Electoral Competition when Candidates are Better Informed than Voters


  • Thomas Jensen

    (Department of Economics, University of Copenhagen)


In this paper we study the functioning of representative democracy when politicians are better informed than the electorate about conditions relevant for policy choice. We consider a model with two states of the world. The distribution of voters' preferred policies shifts with the state. The two candidates are both completely office-motivated but differ in state-dependent quality. Voters have some information about the state but candidates are better informed. If voters' information is unknown to the candidates when they take positions and sufficiently accurate then candidates will, in refined equilibrium, reveal their information by converging to the most likely median. If voters' information is not sufficiently accurate then there is polarization and the candidates'information is not revealed to the voters. We also show that if voters'information is known to the candidates then they will never reveal their information to the voters. The candidates will either pander by converging on the median that is most likely given only the voters'information or be polarized. With respect to welfare, if voters are well informed then they all prefer that their information is unknown to the candidates. However, if voters are not well informed then it is the other way around, all voters prefer that their information is known by the candidates.

Suggested Citation

  • Thomas Jensen, 2009. "Electoral Competition when Candidates are Better Informed than Voters," EPRU Working Paper Series 2009-06, Economic Policy Research Unit (EPRU), University of Copenhagen. Department of Economics.
  • Handle: RePEc:kud:epruwp:09-06

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Christian Schultz, 1996. "Polarization and Inefficient Policies," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 63(2), pages 331-344.
    2. Kyle Bagwell & Garey Ramey, 1991. "Oligopoly Limit Pricing," RAND Journal of Economics, The RAND Corporation, vol. 22(2), pages 155-172, Summer.
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    4. Aragones, Enriqueta & Palfrey, Thomas R., 2002. "Mixed Equilibrium in a Downsian Model with a Favored Candidate," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 103(1), pages 131-161, March.
    5. Cukierman, Alex & Tommasi, Mariano, 1998. "When Does It Take a Nixon to Go to China?," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 88(1), pages 180-197, March.
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    7. Ansolabehere, Stephen & Snyder, James M, Jr, 2000. "Valence Politics and Equilibrium in Spatial Election Models," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 103(3-4), pages 327-336, June.
    8. Martinelli, Cesar, 2001. "Elections with Privately Informed Parties and Voters," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 108(1-2), pages 147-167, July.
    9. Harrington, Joseph E, Jr, 1993. "Economic Policy, Economic Performance, and Elections," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 83(1), pages 27-42, March.
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    Cited by:

    1. Guido Merzoni & Federico Trombetta, 2016. "The cost of doing the right thing. A model of populism with rent-seeking politicians and the economic crisis," DISEIS - Quaderni del Dipartimento di Economia internazionale, delle istituzioni e dello sviluppo dis1602, Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore, Dipartimento di Economia internazionale, delle istituzioni e dello sviluppo (DISEIS).
    2. Honryo, Takakazu, 2013. "Signaling Competence in Elections," Discussion Paper Series of SFB/TR 15 Governance and the Efficiency of Economic Systems 442, Free University of Berlin, Humboldt University of Berlin, University of Bonn, University of Mannheim, University of Munich.
    3. Krasa, Stefan & Polborn, Mattias K., 2012. "Political competition between differentiated candidates," Games and Economic Behavior, Elsevier, vol. 76(1), pages 249-271.

    More about this item


    electoral competition; uncertainty; information; candidate quality;

    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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