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Strategic ambiguity in electoral competition

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  • Enriqueta Aragonés
  • Zvika Neeman

Abstract

Many have observed that political candidates running for election are often purposefully expressing themselves in vague and ambiguous terms. In this paper we provide a simple formal model of this phenomenon. We model the electoral competition between two candidates as a two--stage game. In the first stage of the game two candidates simultaneously choose their ideologies, and in the second stage they simultaneously choose their level of ambiguity. Our results show that ambiguity, although disliked by voters, may be sustained in equilibrium. The introduction of ambiguity as a strategic choice variable for the candidates can also serve to explain why candidates with the same electoral objectives end up ``separating'', that is, assuming different ideological positions.

Suggested Citation

  • Enriqueta Aragonés & Zvika Neeman, 1994. "Strategic ambiguity in electoral competition," Economics Working Papers 162, Department of Economics and Business, Universitat Pompeu Fabra, revised Apr 1996.
  • Handle: RePEc:upf:upfgen:162
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. repec:cup:apsrev:v:66:y:1972:i:02:p:555-568_13 is not listed on IDEAS
    2. 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.
    3. Hinich, Melvin J., 1977. "Equilibrium in spatial voting: The median voter result is an artifact," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 16(2), pages 208-219, December.
    4. d'Aspremont, C & Gabszewicz, Jean Jaskold & Thisse, J-F, 1979. "On Hotelling's "Stability in Competition"," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 47(5), pages 1145-1150, September.
    5. Alberto Alesina & Alex Cukierman, 1990. "The Politics of Ambiguity," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 105(4), pages 829-850.
    6. 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.
    7. Richard McKelvey, 1980. "Ambiguity in spatial models of policy formation," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 35(4), pages 385-402, January.
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    Citations

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    Cited by:

    1. Thomas Jensen, 2009. "Projection effects and strategic ambiguity in electoral competition," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 141(1), pages 213-232, October.
    2. Dewan, Torun & Myatt, David P., 2008. "The Qualities of Leadership: Direction, Communication, and Obfuscation," American Political Science Review, Cambridge University Press, vol. 102(03), pages 351-368, August.
    3. Herrera, Helios & Levine, David K. & Martinelli, César, 2008. "Policy platforms, campaign spending and voter participation," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 92(3-4), pages 501-513, April.
    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, vol. 7(2), pages 195-210, May.
    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. 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.
    9. Casas, Agustin, 2013. "Partisan politics : parties, primaries and elections," UC3M Working papers. Economics we1315, Universidad Carlos III de Madrid. Departamento de Economía.
    10. Enriqueta Aragonés & Andrew Postlewaite, 1999. "Ambiguity in election games," Economics Working Papers 364, Department of Economics and Business, Universitat Pompeu Fabra.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    Ambiguous platforms; ideological differentiation;

    JEL classification:

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

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