IDEAS home Printed from https://ideas.repec.org/p/nwu/cmsems/1083.html
   My bibliography  Save this paper

Strategic Ambiguity in Electoral Competition

Author

Listed:
  • Enriqueta Aragones
  • Zvika Neeman

Abstract

Many have observed that political candidates running for election are often purposefully expressing themselves in vague and ambiguous terms. Moreover, the candidates' ambiguity typically involves precisely those issues which stand in the center of public debate. In this paper, we provide a simple formal model of this phenomenon. We assume that candidates prefer to be ambiguous, at least as long as it does not impair their chances to be elected. One reason for their preference for ambiguity is that the more ambiguous a candidate is, the less he is committed to specific policies when in office, and the more freedom he has when confroting unforeseen contingencies. We model the electoral competition between two candidates as a two-stage game. In the first stage of the game, the candidates simultaneously choose their ideologies, and in the second stage of the game, they simulataneously choose their level of ambiguity. Our results show that an equilibrium always exists, and the two candidates always choose the same level of strategic ambiguity. We find that for certain ranges of parameter values, both candidates will express themselves in ambiguous terms. More interestingly, the candidates may find it advantageous to differentiate themselves ideologically. Thus, we show the existence of an equilibrium where one candidate chooses, say, a "leftist" ideology, the other candidate chooses a "centrist" ideology and both candidates remain vague regarding their future policies in case they win the election.

Suggested Citation

  • Enriqueta Aragones & Zvika Neeman, 1994. "Strategic Ambiguity in Electoral Competition," Discussion Papers 1083, Northwestern University, Center for Mathematical Studies in Economics and Management Science.
  • Handle: RePEc:nwu:cmsems:1083
    as

    Download full text from publisher

    File URL: http://www.kellogg.northwestern.edu/research/math/papers/1083.pdf
    File Function: main text
    Download Restriction: no

    Other versions of this item:

    References listed on IDEAS

    as
    1. Alberto Alesina & Alex Cukierman, 1990. "The Politics of Ambiguity," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 105(4), pages 829-850.
    2. Rebecca B. Morton & Roger B. Myerson, 1992. "Campaign Spending with Impressionable Voters," Discussion Papers 1023, Northwestern University, Center for Mathematical Studies in Economics and Management Science.
    3. Richard McKelvey, 1980. "Ambiguity in spatial models of policy formation," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 35(4), pages 385-402, January.
    4. repec:cup:apsrev:v:66:y:1972:i:02:p:555-568_13 is not listed on IDEAS
    5. Myerson Roger B., 1993. "Effectiveness of Electoral Systems for Reducing Government Corruption: A Game-Theoretic Analysis," Games and Economic Behavior, Elsevier, vol. 5(1), pages 118-132, January.
    6. Hinich, Melvin J., 1977. "Equilibrium in spatial voting: The median voter result is an artifact," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, pages 208-219.
    7. Thomas R. Palfrey, 1984. "Spatial Equilibrium with Entry," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 51(1), pages 139-156.
    8. d'Aspremont, C & Gabszewicz, Jean Jaskold & Thisse, J-F, 1979. "On Hotelling's "Stability in Competition"," Econometrica, Econometric Society, pages 1145-1150.
    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. Thomas Jensen, 2009. "Projection effects and strategic ambiguity in electoral competition," Public Choice, Springer, pages 213-232.
    2. Campbell Leith & Simon Wren‐Lewis, 2013. "Fiscal Sustainability in a New Keynesian Model," Journal of Money, Credit and Banking, Blackwell Publishing, vol. 45(8), pages 1477-1516, December.
    3. Herrera, Helios & Levine, David K. & Martinelli, César, 2008. "Policy platforms, campaign spending and voter participation," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, pages 501-513.
    4. James Anderson & Maurizio Zanardi, 2009. "Political pressure deflection," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 141(1), pages 129-150, October.
    5. Jean-François Laslier, 2006. "Ambiguity in Electoral Competition," Economics of Governance, Springer, pages 195-210.
    6. Guido, Cataife, 2007. "The pronouncements of paranoid politicians," MPRA Paper 4473, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    7. Adam Meirowitz, 2005. "Keeping the other candidate guessing: Electoral competition when preferences are private information," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 122(3), pages 299-318, March.
    8. repec:cup:apsrev:v:102:y:2008:i:03:p:351-368_08 is not listed on IDEAS
    9. Thomas Jensen, 2005. "Can Ambiguity in Electoral Competition be Explained by Projection Effects in Voters' Perceptions?," Discussion Papers 05-25, University of Copenhagen. Department of Economics.
    10. Casas, Agustin, 2013. "Partisan politics : parties, primaries and elections," UC3M Working papers. Economics we1315, Universidad Carlos III de Madrid. Departamento de Economía.
    11. Enriqueta Aragonés & Andrew Postlewaite, 1999. "Ambiguity in election games," Economics Working Papers 364, Department of Economics and Business, Universitat Pompeu Fabra.
    12. Dewan, Torun & Myatt, David P., 2008. "The Qualities of Leadership: Direction, Communication, and Obfuscation," American Political Science Review, Cambridge University Press, pages 351-368.
    13. Jean-François Laslier, 2006. "Ambiguity in Electoral Competition," Economics of Governance, Springer, pages 195-210.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • D72 - Microeconomics - - Analysis of Collective Decision-Making - - - Political Processes: Rent-seeking, Lobbying, Elections, Legislatures, and Voting Behavior

    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:nwu:cmsems:1083. 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: (Fran Walker). General contact details of provider: http://edirc.repec.org/data/cmnwuus.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 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.

    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.