IDEAS home Printed from
   My bibliography  Save this paper

Playing for Your Own Audience: Extremism in Two-Party Elections


  • Gabor Virag

    () (Economics University of Rochester)


This paper considers a two-party election with a single-dimensional policy space. We assume that each voter has a higher probability of observing the position of the party he is affiliated with than the position of the other party, an assumption that is consistent with the National Election Studies (NES) electoral data set. In equilibrium, the two parties locate away from the median, because the voters who dislike a party's platform observe its policy choice with a lower probability, and its own audience like policy choices that cater to its taste. As the asymmetry in voter information or the cost of voting increases, the parties adopt more extreme platforms, while if there are fewer extreme voters the opposite effect occurs. Making voters more symmetrically informed about the two parties' platforms increases the welfare of society, while asymmetric information acquisition by the voters is worse than no information acquisition at all. Copyright © 2008 Wiley Periodicals, Inc..
(This abstract was borrowed from another version of this item.)

Suggested Citation

  • Gabor Virag, 2005. "Playing for Your Own Audience: Extremism in Two-Party Elections," 2005 Meeting Papers 350, Society for Economic Dynamics.
  • Handle: RePEc:red:sed005:350

    Download full text from publisher

    File URL:
    File Function: main text
    Download Restriction: no

    Other versions of this item:

    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Matthew Turner & Quinn Weninger, 2005. "Meetings with Costly Participation: An Empirical Analysis," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 72(1), pages 247-268.
    2. Assar Lindbeck & Jörgen Weibull, 1987. "Balanced-budget redistribution as the outcome of political competition," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 52(3), pages 273-297, January.
    3. 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, Oxford University Press, vol. 120(4), pages 1283-1330.
    4. Arianna Degan & Antonio Merlo, 2006. "Do Voters Vote Sincerely?," PIER Working Paper Archive 06-008, Penn Institute for Economic Research, Department of Economics, University of Pennsylvania.
    5. Timothy Besley & Andrea Prat, 2006. "Handcuffs for the Grabbing Hand? Media Capture and Government Accountability," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 96(3), pages 720-736, June.
    6. John Ledyard, 1984. "The pure theory of large two-candidate elections," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 44(1), pages 7-41, January.
    7. Martin J. Osborne & Jeffrey S. Rosenthal & Matthew A. Turner, 2005. "Meetings with Costly Participation: Reply," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 95(4), pages 1351-1354, September.
    8. Stefano DellaVigna & Ethan Kaplan, 2007. "The Fox News Effect: Media Bias and Voting," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 122(3), pages 1187-1234.
    9. John E. Roemer, 1997. "Political-economic equilibrium when parties represent constituents: The unidimensional case," Social Choice and Welfare, Springer;The Society for Social Choice and Welfare, vol. 14(4), pages 479-502.
    10. repec:cup:apsrev:v:77:y:1983:i:01:p:142-157_24 is not listed on IDEAS
    11. Anthony Downs, 1957. "An Economic Theory of Political Action in a Democracy," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 65, pages 135-135.
    Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)


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

    Cited by:

    1. John Duggan & César Martinelli, 2008. "The Role of Media Slant in Elections and Economics," Wallis Working Papers WP54, University of Rochester - Wallis Institute of Political Economy.
    2. Benjamin Ogden, 2017. "The Imperfect Beliefs Voting Model," Working Papers ECARES ECARES 2017-20, ULB -- Universite Libre de Bruxelles.
    3. John Duggan & Cesar Martinelli, 2008. "Rational Expectations and Media Slant," Levine's Bibliography 122247000000001844, UCLA Department of Economics.

    More about this item


    political extremism; two-party elections; media bias;

    JEL classification:

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

    NEP fields

    This paper has been announced in the following NEP Reports:


    Access and download statistics


    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:red:sed005:350. 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: (Christian Zimmermann). General contact details of provider: .

    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.