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Ambiguity in election games


  • Enriqueta Aragonés
  • Andrew Postlewaite


We construct a model in which the ambiguity of candidates allows them to increase the number of voters to whom they appeal when voters have intense preferences for one of the alternatives available. An ambiguous candidate may offer voters with different preferences the hope that their most preferred alternative will be implemented. We find conditions under which ambiguous strategies are chosen in equilibrium. These conditions include the case in which there is an outcome that is a majority winner against all other outcomes but is not the most preferred outcome for a majority of voters. It is shown that if the number of candidates or parties increases, ambiguity will not be possible in equilibrium, but a larger set of possible policies increases the chance that at least one candidate will choose to be ambiguous in equilibrium.

Suggested Citation

  • Enriqueta Aragonés & Andrew Postlewaite, 1999. "Ambiguity in election games," Economics Working Papers 364, Department of Economics and Business, Universitat Pompeu Fabra.
  • Handle: RePEc:upf:upfgen:364

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. repec:cup:apsrev:v:66:y:1972:i:02:p:555-568_13 is not listed on IDEAS
    2. Richard Zeckhauser, 1969. "Majority Rule with Lotteries on Alternatives," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 83(4), pages 696-703.
    3. Banks, Jeffrey S., 1990. "A model of electoral competition with incomplete information," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 50(2), pages 309-325, April.
    4. Alberto Alesina & Alex Cukierman, 1990. "The Politics of Ambiguity," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 105(4), pages 829-850.
    5. 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.
    6. Alessandro Lizzeri, 1999. "Budget Deficits and Redistributive Politics," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 66(4), pages 909-928.
    7. Joseph E. Harrington, 1992. "The Revelation Of Information Through The Electoral Process: An Exploratory Analysis," Economics and Politics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 4(3), pages 255-276, November.
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    Cited by:

    1. Giuseppe Attanasi & Luca CORAZZINI & Nikolaos GEORGANTZIS & Francesco PASSARELLI, 2009. "Risk Aversion, Over-Confidence and Private Information as determinants of Majority Thresholds," LERNA Working Papers 09.26.302, LERNA, University of Toulouse.
    2. Attanasi, Giuseppe & Corazzini, Luca & Passarelli, Francesco, 2017. "Voting as a lottery," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 146(C), pages 129-137.
    3. Juan Carlos Berganza, 2000. "Politicians, voters and electoral processes: an overview," Investigaciones Economicas, Fundación SEPI, vol. 24(3), pages 501-543, September.
    4. Marcus Berliant & Hideo Konishi, 2005. "Salience: Agenda choices by competing candidates," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 125(1), pages 129-149, July.
    5. Callander, Steven & Wilson, Catherine H., 2008. "Context-dependent voting and political ambiguity," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 92(3-4), pages 565-581, April.
    6. Enriqueta Aragones & Itzhak Gilboa & Andrew Weiss, 2011. "Making statements and approval voting," Theory and Decision, Springer, vol. 71(4), pages 461-472, October.
    7. Eric Eyster & Thomas Kittsteiner, 2004. "Party Platforms in Electoral Competition with many constituencies," Bonn Econ Discussion Papers bgse9_2004, University of Bonn, Germany, revised Nov 2004.
    8. Jean-François Laslier, 2006. "Ambiguity in Electoral Competition," Economics of Governance, Springer, vol. 7(2), pages 195-210, May.
    9. Guido, Cataife, 2007. "The pronouncements of paranoid politicians," MPRA Paper 4473, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    10. Alberto Alesina & Richard Holden, 2008. "Ambiguity and Extremism in Elections," Levine's Working Paper Archive 122247000000002358, David K. Levine.

    More about this item


    Ambiguity; elections;

    JEL classification:

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

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