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Ambiguity and Extremism in Elections

  • Alberto F. Alesina
  • Richard T. Holden

We analyze a model in which voters are uncertain about the policy preferences of candidates. Two forces affect the probability of electoral success: proximity to the median voter and campaign contributions. First, we show how campaign contributions affect elections. Then we show how the candidates may wish to announce a range of policy preferences, rather than a single point. This strategic ambiguity balances voter beliefs about the appeal of candidates both to the median voter and to the campaign contributors. If primaries precede a general election, they add another incentive for ambiguity, because in the primaries the candidates do not want to reveal too much information, to maintain some freedom of movement in the policy space for the general election. Ambiguity has an option value.

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File URL: http://www.nber.org/papers/w14143.pdf
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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 14143.

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Date of creation: Jun 2008
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Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:14143
Note: POL
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  1. Edward L. Glaeser & Giacomo A. M. Ponzetto & Jesse M. Shapiro, 2005. "Strategic Extremism: Why Republicans and Democrats Divide on Religious Values," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 120(4), pages 1283-1330, November.
  2. Callander, Steven & Wilkie, Simon, 2007. "Lies, damned lies, and political campaigns," Games and Economic Behavior, Elsevier, vol. 60(2), pages 262-286, August.
  3. Alesina, Alberto, 1988. "Credibility and Policy Convergence in a Two-Party System with Rational Voters," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 78(4), pages 796-805, September.
  4. Campante, Filipe R., 2011. "Redistribution in a model of voting and campaign contributions," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 95(7), pages 646-656.
  5. Cukierman, Alex & Alesina, Alberto, 1990. "The Politics of Ambiguity," Scholarly Articles 4552530, Harvard University Department of Economics.
  6. Alesina, Alberto & Rosenthal, Howard, 2000. "Polarized platforms and moderate policies with checks and balances," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 75(1), pages 1-20, January.
  7. Banks, Jeffrey S. & Sobel, Joel., 1985. "Equilibrium Selection in Signaling Games," Working Papers 565, California Institute of Technology, Division of the Humanities and Social Sciences.
  8. Enriqueta Aragonés & Andrew Postlewaite, 1999. "Ambiguity in election games," Economics Working Papers 364, Department of Economics and Business, Universitat Pompeu Fabra.
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