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A Reputational Theory of Two Party Competition

We study a dynamic game of incomplete information in which two political parties contest elections with endogenously formed reputations regarding the preferences that prevail within each party. Party preferences exhibit serial correlation and change with higher probability following defeat in elections. We show that when partisans care sufficiently about office, extreme policies are pursued with positive probability by the government if the ruling party is perceived relatively more extreme than the opposition. In equilibrium such policies occur when (a) both parties are perceived to be more extreme than a fixed benchmark level, and (b) elections are close in that both parties have similar reputations. Two qualitatively different equilibrium dynamics are possible depending on the relative speed with which preferences of parties in government or in the opposition change: One produces regular government turnover and extreme policies along the path of play, another involves a strong incumbency advantage and policy moderation.

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File URL: http://www.wallis.rochester.edu/WallisPapers/wallis_57.pdf
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Paper provided by University of Rochester - Wallis Institute of Political Economy in its series Wallis Working Papers with number WP57.

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Length: 44 pages
Date of creation: Jul 2008
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:roc:wallis:wp57
Contact details of provider: Postal: University of Rochester, Wallis Institute, Harkness 109B Rochester, New York 14627 U.S.A.

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  1. Mailath,G.J. & Samuelson,L., 1998. "Who wants a good reputation?," Working papers 19, Wisconsin Madison - Social Systems.
  2. John Duggan, 2000. "Repeated Elections with Asymmetric Information," Economics and Politics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 12(2), pages 109-135, 07.
  3. John E. Roemer, 1999. "The Democratic Political Economy of Progressive Income Taxation," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 67(1), pages 1-20, January.
  4. Bernhardt, Dan & Dubey, Sangita & Hughson, Eric, 2004. "Term limits and pork barrel politics," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 88(12), pages 2383-2422, December.
  5. 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.
  6. Kenneth Rogoff & Anne Sibert, 1986. "Elections and Macroeconomic Policy Cycles," NBER Working Papers 1838, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  7. Rogoff, Kenneth, 1990. "Equilibrium Political Budget Cycles," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 80(1), pages 21-36, March.
  8. Avinash Dixit & Gene M. Grossman & Faruk Gul, 2000. "The Dynamics of Political Compromise," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 108(3), pages 531-568, June.
  9. Weingast, Barry R. & Wittman, Donald, 2008. "The Oxford Handbook of Political Economy," OUP Catalogue, Oxford University Press, number 9780199548477, March.
  10. John Ferejohn, 1986. "Incumbent performance and electoral control," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 50(1), pages 5-25, January.
  11. John Duggan & Mark Fey, 2006. "Repeated Downsian electoral competition," International Journal of Game Theory, Springer, vol. 35(1), pages 39-69, December.
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