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A theory of communication in political campaigns

  • Denter, Philipp


In this paper I develop a formal theory of campaign communications. Voters have priors about the quality of candidates' policies in the different policy issues and about the issues’ relative importance. Candidates spend time or money (TV ads, public speeches, etc.) in an effort to influence voters' decision at the ballot. Influence has two simultaneous effects: (i) it increases the quality of the policy in the issue as perceived by the voters through policy advertising and (ii) it makes the issue more salient through issue priming, thereby increasing the issue's perceived importance. A strategy is an allocation of influence activities to the different issues or topics. I show conditions under which candidates’ strategies converge or diverge, which issues – if any – will dominate the campaign, and under what conditions candidates are forced to focus on issues in which they are perceived to be weak. I develop a set of novel testable predictions and discuss the model’s predictive power by example of the 2008 presidential campaign in the U.S.

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Paper provided by University of St. Gallen, School of Economics and Political Science in its series Economics Working Paper Series with number 1302.

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Length: 53 pages
Date of creation: Feb 2013
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:usg:econwp:2013:02
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  1. Stergios Skaperdas & Samarth Vaidya, 2012. "Persuasion as a contest," Economic Theory, Springer, vol. 51(2), pages 465-486, October.
  2. Dan Kovenock J. & Brian Roberson, 2010. "Conflicts with Multiple Battlefields," CESifo Working Paper Series 3165, CESifo Group Munich.
  3. Thomas Piketty & Emmanuel Saez, 2003. "Income Inequality In The United States, 1913-1998," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 118(1), pages 1-39, February.
  4. Micael Castanheira De Moura & Marco Giani & Enriqueta Aragonès, 2015. "Electoral Competition through Issue Selection," ULB Institutional Repository 2013/159851, ULB -- Universite Libre de Bruxelles.
  5. Snyder, James M, 1989. "Election Goals and the Allocation of Campaign Resources," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 57(3), pages 637-60, May.
  6. Denter, Philipp & Sisak, Dana, 2013. "Do Polls Create Momentum in Political Campaigns?," Economics Working Paper Series 1326, University of St. Gallen, School of Economics and Political Science.
  7. Chowdhury, Subhasish & Kovenock, Dan & Sheremeta, Roman, 2011. "An Experimental Investigation of Colonel Blotto Games," MPRA Paper 46810, University Library of Munich, Germany.
  8. Thomas Jensen, 2007. "Elections, Private Information, and State-Dependent Candidate Quality," Discussion Papers 07-13, University of Copenhagen. Department of Economics.
  9. Kelvin J. Lancaster, 1966. "A New Approach to Consumer Theory," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 74, pages 132.
  10. Drew Fudenberg & Jean Tirole, 1991. "Game Theory," MIT Press Books, The MIT Press, edition 1, volume 1, number 0262061414, June.
  11. Philipp Denter & Dana Sisak, 2013. "Do Polls create Momentum in Political Competition?," Tinbergen Institute Discussion Papers 13-169/VII, Tinbergen Institute.
  12. Nicolas Sahuguet & Nicola Persico, 2006. "Campaign spending regulation in a model of redistributive politics," Economic Theory, Springer, vol. 28(1), pages 95-124, 05.
  13. Stefan Buehler & Daniel Halbheer, 2011. "Selling when Brand Image Matters," Journal of Institutional and Theoretical Economics (JITE), Mohr Siebeck, Tübingen, vol. 167(1), pages 102-118, March.
  14. Pablo Amorós & M. Puy, 2013. "Issue convergence or issue divergence in a political campaign?," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 155(3), pages 355-371, June.
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