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Do Polls Create Momentum in Political Campaigns?

  • Denter, Philipp


  • Sisak, Dana


We explore how public opinion polls affect candidates' campaign spending in political competition. Generally, polls lead to (more) asymmetric behavior. Under a majority rule there always exists an equilibrium in which the initially more popular candidate invests more in the campaign and thereby increases her lead in expectation: polls create momentum. When campaigning is very effective and the race is very close, a second type of equilibrium may exist: the trailing candidate outspends and overtakes his opponent. Regardless of the type of equilibrium, polls have a tendency to decrease expected total campaigning expenditures by amplifying ex-ante asymmetries between candidates and thus defusing competition. When candidates care also for their vote share in addition to having the majority, candidates' incentives crucially depend on the distribution of voters' candidate preferences.

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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 1326.

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Length: 70 pages
Date of creation: Oct 2013
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:usg:econwp:2013:26
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  1. Masaki Aoyagi, 2003. "Information Feedback in a Dynamic Tournament," ISER Discussion Paper 0580, Institute of Social and Economic Research, Osaka University.
  2. Bulow, Jeremy I & Geanakoplos, John D & Klemperer, Paul D, 1985. "Multimarket Oligopoly: Strategic Substitutes and Complements," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 93(3), pages 488-511, June.
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  4. Drew Fudenberg & Jean Tirole, 1991. "Game Theory," MIT Press Books, The MIT Press, edition 1, volume 1, number 0262061414, June.
  5. Chaim Fershtman & Uri Gneezy, 2011. "The Tradeoff Between Performance And Quitting In High Power Tournaments," Journal of the European Economic Association, European Economic Association, vol. 9(2), pages 318-336, 04.
  6. Baye, Michael R & Kovenock, Dan & de Vries, Casper G, 1993. "Rigging the Lobbying Process: An Application of the All-Pay Auction," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 83(1), pages 289-94, March.
  7. Snyder, James M, 1989. "Election Goals and the Allocation of Campaign Resources," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 57(3), pages 637-60, May.
  8. Denter, Philipp & Morgan, John & Sisak, Dana, 2011. ""Where Ignorance is Bliss, 'tis Folly to be Wise": Transparency in Contests," Economics Working Paper Series 1128, University of St. Gallen, School of Economics and Political Science.
  9. Brian Knight & Nathan Schiff, 2007. "Momentum and Social Learning in Presidential Primaries," NBER Working Papers 13637, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  10. Gassebner, Martin & Jong-A-Pin, Richard & Mierau, Jochen O., 2008. "Terrorism and electoral accountability: One strike, you're out!," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 100(1), pages 126-129, July.
  11. Florian Ederer, 2010. "Feedback and Motivation in Dynamic Tournaments," Journal of Economics & Management Strategy, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 19(3), pages 733-769, 09.
  12. repec:oup:restud:v:74:y:2007:i:3:p:653-684 is not listed on IDEAS
  13. Benny Moldovanu & Aner Sela, 2001. "The Optimal Allocation of Prizes in Contests," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 91(3), pages 542-558, June.
  14. Berg, Joyce E. & Nelson, Forrest D. & Rietz, Thomas A., 2008. "Prediction market accuracy in the long run," International Journal of Forecasting, Elsevier, vol. 24(2), pages 285-300.
  15. Matias Iaryczower & Andrea Mattozzi, 2012. "The pro-competitive effect of campaign limits in non-majoritarian elections," Economic Theory, Springer, vol. 49(3), pages 591-619, April.
  16. Denter, Philipp, 2013. "A theory of communication in political campaigns," Economics Working Paper Series 1302, University of St. Gallen, School of Economics and Political Science.
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