IDEAS home Printed from https://ideas.repec.org/p/nbr/nberwo/21422.html
   My bibliography  Save this paper

Elections and Divisiveness: Theory and Evidence

Author

Listed:
  • Elliott Ash
  • Massimo Morelli
  • Richard Van Weelden

Abstract

This paper analyzes the effort allocation choices of incumbent politicians when voters are uncertain about politician preferences. There is a pervasive incentive to "posture" by over-providing effort to pursue divisive policies, even if all voters would strictly prefer to have a consensus policy implemented. As such, the desire of politicians to convince voters that their preferences are aligned with the majority of the electorate can lead them to choose strictly pareto dominated effort allocations. Transparency over the politicians' effort choices can re-enforce the distortions, and for some parameters can be bad both for incentivizing politicians to focus on socially efficient tasks and for allowing voters to select congruent politicians. We take our theoretical results to the data with an empirical analysis of how Members of the U.S. Congress allocate time across issues in their floor speeches. Consistent with the theory, we find evidence of political posturing due to elections among U.S. Senators. We also demonstrate empirically that, among U.S. House Members, increased transparency can lead to more divisive speech.

Suggested Citation

  • Elliott Ash & Massimo Morelli & Richard Van Weelden, 2015. "Elections and Divisiveness: Theory and Evidence," NBER Working Papers 21422, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:21422
    Note: PE POL
    as

    Download full text from publisher

    File URL: http://www.nber.org/papers/w21422.pdf
    Download Restriction: no
    ---><---

    Other versions of this item:

    References listed on IDEAS

    as
    1. John A. List & Daniel M. Sturm, 2006. "How Elections Matter: Theory and Evidence from Environmental Policy," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 121(4), pages 1249-1281.
    2. Marina Azzimonti-Renzo, 2014. "Partisan conflict," Working Papers 14-19, Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia.
    3. Georgy Egorov & Konstantin Sonin, 2013. "A Political Theory of Populism," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 128(2), pages 771-805.
    4. Josep Colomer & Humberto Llavador, 2012. "An agenda-setting model of electoral competition," SERIEs: Journal of the Spanish Economic Association, Springer;Spanish Economic Association, vol. 3(1), pages 73-93, March.
    5. Matthew Gentzkow & Jesse M. Shapiro, 2010. "What Drives Media Slant? Evidence From U.S. Daily Newspapers," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 78(1), pages 35-71, January.
    6. Enriqueta Aragonès & Micael Castanheira & Marco Giani, 2015. "Electoral Competition through Issue Selection," American Journal of Political Science, John Wiley & Sons, vol. 59(1), pages 71-90, January.
    7. Holmstrom, Bengt & Milgrom, Paul, 1991. "Multitask Principal-Agent Analyses: Incentive Contracts, Asset Ownership, and Job Design," The Journal of Law, Economics, and Organization, Oxford University Press, vol. 7(0), pages 24-52, Special I.
    8. Laurent Bouton & Paola Conconi & Francisco Pino & Maurizio Zanardi, 2013. "Guns and Votes," Working Papers ECARES ECARES 2013-39, ULB -- Universite Libre de Bruxelles.
      • Laurent Bouton & Paola Conconi & Francisco Pino & Maurizio Zanardi, 2013. "Guns and votes," Working Papers 43819146, Lancaster University Management School, Economics Department.
      • Laurent Bouton & Paola Conconi & Francisco Pino & Maurizio Zanardi, 2014. "Guns and Votes," NBER Working Papers 20253, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
      • Bouton, Laurent & Conconi, Paola & Pino, Francisco & Zanardi, Maurizio, 2013. "Guns and Votes," CEPR Discussion Papers 9726, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
    9. Jacoby, William G., 2014. "Is There a Culture War? Conflicting Value Structures in American Public Opinion," American Political Science Review, Cambridge University Press, vol. 108(4), pages 754-771, November.
    10. Conconi, Paola & Facchini, Giovanni & Zanardi, Maurizio, 2014. "Policymakers' horizon and trade reforms: The protectionist effect of elections," Journal of International Economics, Elsevier, vol. 94(1), pages 102-118.
    11. Fox, Justin & Stephenson, Matthew C., 2011. "Judicial Review as a Response to Political Posturing," American Political Science Review, Cambridge University Press, vol. 105(2), pages 397-414, May.
    12. Levitt, Steven D, 1996. "How Do Senators Vote? Disentangling the Role of Voter Preferences, Party Affiliation, and Senate Ideology," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 86(3), pages 425-441, June.
    13. Vlaicu, Razvan & Whalley, Alexander, 2016. "Hierarchical accountability in government," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 134(C), pages 85-99.
    14. Fox, Justin & Van Weelden, Richard, 2012. "Costly transparency," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 96(1), pages 142-150.
    15. Massimo Morelli & Richard Van Weelden, 2013. "Ideology and information in policymaking," Journal of Theoretical Politics, , vol. 25(3), pages 412-439, July.
    Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)

    Citations

    Citations are extracted by the CitEc Project, subscribe to its RSS feed for this item.
    as


    Cited by:

    1. Jerch, Rhiannon & Kahn, Matthew E. & Li, Shanjun, 2017. "The efficiency of local government: The role of privatization and public sector unions," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 154(C), pages 95-121.
    2. Azzimonti, Marina, 2018. "Partisan conflict and private investment," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 93(C), pages 114-131.
    3. Osório, António (António Miguel), 2018. "Conflict and Competition over Multi-Issues," Working Papers 2072/306550, Universitat Rovira i Virgili, Department of Economics.
    4. Gabriele Gratton & Luigi Guiso & Claudio Michelacci & Massimo Morelli, 2017. "From Weber to Kafka: Political Instability and the Rise of an Inefficient Bureaucracy," EIEF Working Papers Series 1708, Einaudi Institute for Economics and Finance (EIEF), revised May 2017.
    5. Georgy Egorov, 2015. "Single-Issue Campaigns and Multidimensional Politics," NBER Working Papers 21265, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    6. Gabriele Gratton & Luigi Guiso & Claudio Michelacci & Massimo Morelli, 2015. "From Weber to Kafka: Political Activism and the Emergence of an Inefficient Bureaucracy," Working Papers 560, IGIER (Innocenzo Gasparini Institute for Economic Research), Bocconi University.
    7. Ash, Elliott & MacLeod, W. Bentley, 2021. "Reducing partisanship in judicial elections can improve judge quality: Evidence from U.S. state supreme courts," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 201(C).
    8. Fox, Justin & Van Weelden, Richard, 2015. "Hoping for the best, unprepared for the worst," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 130(C), pages 59-65.

    Most related items

    These are the items that most often cite the same works as this one and are cited by the same works as this one.
    1. Morales, Juan S., 2021. "Legislating during war: Conflict and politics in Colombia," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 193(C).
    2. Laurent Bouton & Paola Conconi & Francisco Pino & Maurizio Zanardi, 2021. "The Tyranny of the Single-Minded: Guns, Environment, and Abortion," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 103(1), pages 48-59, March.
    3. Laurent Bouton & Paola Conconi & Francisco Pino & Maurizio Zanardi, 2018. "Guns, Environment, and Abortion: How Single-Minded Voters Shape Politicians' Decisions," Working Papers wp459, University of Chile, Department of Economics.
    4. Stephane Wolton, 2019. "Are Biased Media Bad for Democracy?," American Journal of Political Science, John Wiley & Sons, vol. 63(3), pages 548-562, July.
    5. César Martinelli & John Duggan, 2014. "The Political Economy of Dynamic Elections: A Survey and Some New Results," Working Papers 1403, Centro de Investigacion Economica, ITAM.
    6. Zhang, Qiaoxi, 2020. "Vagueness in multidimensional proposals," Games and Economic Behavior, Elsevier, vol. 121(C), pages 307-328.
    7. Merzoni, Guido & Trombetta, Federico, 2022. "Pandering and state-specific costs of mismatch in political agency," Games and Economic Behavior, Elsevier, vol. 135(C), pages 132-143.
    8. Sasso, Greg & Morelli, Massimo, 2021. "Bureaucrats under Populism," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 202(C).
    9. Bueno de Mesquita, Ethan & Landa, Dimitri, 2015. "Political accountability and sequential policymaking," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 132(C), pages 95-108.
    10. Foerster, Manuel & Voss, Achim, 2022. "Believe me, I am ignorant, but not biased," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 149(C).
    11. Laurent Bouton & Paola Conconi & Francisco Pino & Maurizio Zanardi, 2013. "Guns and Votes," Working Papers ECARES ECARES 2013-39, ULB -- Universite Libre de Bruxelles.
      • Laurent Bouton & Paola Conconi & Francisco Pino & Maurizio Zanardi, 2013. "Guns and votes," Working Papers 43819146, Lancaster University Management School, Economics Department.
      • Laurent Bouton & Paola Conconi & Francisco Pino & Maurizio Zanardi, 2014. "Guns and Votes," NBER Working Papers 20253, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
      • Bouton, Laurent & Conconi, Paola & Pino, Francisco & Zanardi, Maurizio, 2013. "Guns and Votes," CEPR Discussion Papers 9726, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
    12. Gratton, Gabriele, 2015. "The sound of silence: Political accountability and libel law," European Journal of Political Economy, Elsevier, vol. 37(C), pages 266-279.
    13. Conconi, Paola & Facchini, Giovanni & Zanardi, Maurizio, 2014. "Policymakers' horizon and trade reforms: The protectionist effect of elections," Journal of International Economics, Elsevier, vol. 94(1), pages 102-118.
    14. Che, Yi & Xiao, Rui, 2020. "Import competition, fast-track authority and U.S. policy toward China," Journal of Comparative Economics, Elsevier, vol. 48(4), pages 974-996.
    15. Hisashi Sawaki, 2017. "Ideology signaling in electoral politics," Journal of Theoretical Politics, , vol. 29(1), pages 48-68, January.
    16. Kaivan Munshi & Mark Rosenzweig, 2008. "The Efficacy of Parochial Politics: Caste, Commitment, and Competence in Indian Local Governments," NBER Working Papers 14335, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    17. Federico Boffa & Amedeo Piolatto & Giacomo A. M. Ponzetto, 2016. "Political Centralization and Government Accountability," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 131(1), pages 381-422.
    18. Prato, Carlo & Wolton, Stephane, 2018. "Rational ignorance, populism, and reform," European Journal of Political Economy, Elsevier, vol. 55(C), pages 119-135.
    19. Conconi, Paola & DeRemer, David R. & Kirchsteiger, Georg & Trimarchi, Lorenzo & Zanardi, Maurizio, 2017. "Suspiciously timed trade disputes," Journal of International Economics, Elsevier, vol. 105(C), pages 57-76.
    20. Christine Benesch & Monika Bütler & Katharina Hofer, 2019. "Who Benefits from More Transparency in Parliamentary Voting?," ifo DICE Report, ifo Institute - Leibniz Institute for Economic Research at the University of Munich, vol. 17(01), pages 36-41, May.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • P16 - Economic Systems - - Capitalist Systems - - - Political Economy of Capitalism

    NEP fields

    This paper has been announced in the following NEP Reports:

    Statistics

    Access and download statistics

    Corrections

    All material on this site has been provided by the respective publishers and authors. You can help correct errors and omissions. When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:21422. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: . General contact details of provider: https://edirc.repec.org/data/nberrus.html .

    If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

    If CitEc recognized a bibliographic reference but did not link an item in RePEc to it, you can help with this form .

    If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your RePEc Author Service profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (email available below). General contact details of provider: https://edirc.repec.org/data/nberrus.html .

    Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

    IDEAS is a RePEc service hosted by the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis . RePEc uses bibliographic data supplied by the respective publishers.