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A theory of communication in political campaigns

  • Denter, Philipp

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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, 2007. "Persuasion as a Contest," Working Papers 070809, University of California-Irvine, Department of Economics.
  2. Subhasish M. Chowdhury & Dan Kovenock J. & Roman M. Sheremeta, 2009. "An Experimental Investigation of Colonel Blotto Games," CESifo Working Paper Series 2688, CESifo Group Munich.
  3. Stefan Bühler & Daniel Halbheer, 2010. "Selling When Brand Image Matters," University of St. Gallen Department of Economics working paper series 2010 2010-14, Department of Economics, University of St. Gallen.
  4. Enriqueta Aragonès & Micael Castanheira & Marco Giani, 2012. "Electoral Competition through Issue Selection," UFAE and IAE Working Papers 903.12, Unitat de Fonaments de l'Anàlisi Econòmica (UAB) and Institut d'Anàlisi Econòmica (CSIC).
  5. Nicolas Sahuguet & Nicola Persico, 2006. "Campaign spending regulation in a model of redistributive politics," Economic Theory, Springer, vol. 28(1), pages 95-124, 05.
  6. Dan Kovenock & Brian Roberson, 2010. "Conflicts with Multiple Battlefields," Purdue University Economics Working Papers 1246, Purdue University, Department of Economics.
  7. Thomas Jensen, 2007. "Elections, Private Information, and State-Dependent Candidate Quality," Discussion Papers 07-13, University of Copenhagen. Department of Economics.
  8. Kelvin J. Lancaster, 1966. "A New Approach to Consumer Theory," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 74, pages 132.
  9. Snyder, James M, 1989. "Election Goals and the Allocation of Campaign Resources," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 57(3), pages 637-60, May.
  10. 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.
  11. Pablo Amorós & M. Puy, 2013. "Issue convergence or issue divergence in a political campaign?," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 155(3), pages 355-371, June.
  12. Drew Fudenberg & Jean Tirole, 1991. "Game Theory," MIT Press Books, The MIT Press, edition 1, volume 1, number 0262061414, June.
  13. 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.
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