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Electoral platforms, implemented policies and abstention

Recent studies of American politics evidence that political polarization of both the electorate and the political elite have moved 'almost in tandem for the past half century' (McCarty et al., 2003, p.2), and that party polarization has steadily increased since the 1970s. On the other hand, the empirical literature on party platforms and implemented policies has consistently found an imperfect but nonnegligible correlation between electoral platforms and governmental policies: while platforms tend to be polarized, policies are moderate or centrist. However, existing theoretical models of political competition are not manifestly compatible with these observations. In this paper, we distinguish between electoral platforms and implemented policies by incorporating a non-trivial policy-setting process. It follows that voters may care not only about the implemented policy but also about the platform they support with their vote. We find that while parties tend to polarize their positions, the risk of alienating their constituency prevents them from radicalizing. The analysis evidences that the distribution of the electorate, and not only the (expected) location of a pivotal voter, matters in determining policies. Our results are consistent with the observation of polarized platforms and moderate policies, and the alienation and indifference components of abstention.

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Paper provided by Department of Economics and Business, Universitat Pompeu Fabra in its series Economics Working Papers with number 571.

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Date of creation: Sep 2001
Date of revision: Oct 2004
Handle: RePEc:upf:upfgen:571
Contact details of provider: Web page: http://www.econ.upf.edu/

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  1. Persson, Torsten & Tabellini , Guido, 1997. "Political Economics and Macroeconomic Policy," Seminar Papers 630, Stockholm University, Institute for International Economic Studies.
  2. Leonardo Felli & Antonio Merlo, 2001. "Endogenous Lobbying," PIER Working Paper Archive 04-043, Penn Institute for Economic Research, Department of Economics, University of Pennsylvania, revised 01 Oct 2004.
  3. Austen-Smith, David & Banks, Jeffrey., 1987. "Elections, Coalitions, and Legislative Outcomes," Working Papers 643, California Institute of Technology, Division of the Humanities and Social Sciences.
  4. Drew Fudenberg & Jean Tirole, 1991. "Game Theory," MIT Press Books, The MIT Press, edition 1, volume 1, number 0262061414, June.
  5. Aragones, Enriqueta & Palfrey, Thomas R., 2002. "Mixed Equilibrium in a Downsian Model with a Favored Candidate," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 103(1), pages 131-161, March.
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  7. Alesina, Alberto & Rosenthal, Howard, 2000. "Polarized platforms and moderate policies with checks and balances," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 75(1), pages 1-20, January.
  8. Nicola Persico & Alessandro Lizzeri, 2001. "The Provision of Public Goods under Alternative Electoral Incentives," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 91(1), pages 225-239, March.
  9. Francesco Sinopoli & Giovanna Iannantuoni, 2007. "A spatial voting model where proportional rule leads to two-party equilibria," International Journal of Game Theory, Springer, vol. 35(2), pages 267-286, January.
  10. Ignacio OrtuÓo-OrtÎn, 1997. "A spatial model of political competition and proportional representation," Social Choice and Welfare, Springer, vol. 14(3), pages 427-438.
  11. Matthew Ellman & Leonard Wantchekon, 1999. "Electoral competition under the threat of political unrest," Economics Working Papers 457, Department of Economics and Business, Universitat Pompeu Fabra.
  12. Gene Grossman & Elhanan Helpman, 1994. "Electoral Competition and Special Interest Politics," NBER Working Papers 4877, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  13. Ignacio Ortuno-Ortin & Anke Gerber, 1998. "Political compromise and endogenous formation of coalitions," Social Choice and Welfare, Springer, vol. 15(3), pages 445-454.
  14. Wittman, Donald, 1977. "Candidates with policy preferences: A dynamic model," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 14(1), pages 180-189, February.
  15. Alesina, Alberto & Rosenthal, Howard, 1996. "A Theory of Divided Government," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 64(6), pages 1311-41, November.
  16. Ansolabehere, Stephen & Snyder, James M, Jr, 2000. " Valence Politics and Equilibrium in Spatial Election Models," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 103(3-4), pages 327-36, June.
  17. Humberto G. Llavador, 2000. "original papers : Abstention and political competition," Review of Economic Design, Springer, vol. 5(4), pages 411-432.
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