“Two Candidate Competition on Differentiated Policy Sets”
Under Review at Games and Economic Behavior
In the classic spatial model of office-motivated candidate competition, equilibrium exists only if the distribution of voter ideal points has a total median, a condition which is virtually never met. However, in the classic model, both candidates can propose policies anywhere in policy space, and this is a crucial element in proving the necessity of that condition. If each candidate may only propose policies from a subset of policy space, does an equilibrium exist more generally? I consider a model in which each of two office-motivated candidates proposes a policy from a distinct policy set. When the policy sets are convex and one does not contain the proposed equilibrium policy, it need not be the case that the proposed policy is a total median, because any competing proposal must be at least some positive distance away, and may only lie in certain directions; hence, the conditions of Plott do not apply. Instead, it is only necessary for each median hyperplane to lie in a given halfspace formed by the hyperplane separating the proposed equilibrium from the closest policy the opponent can propose. The intersection of all of the halfspaces is the set of guaranteed supporters of the equilibrium policy, that is, the set of voters for whom the equilibrium policy is closer than any alternative the opposing candidate can propose. Hence, the requirement on the median hyperplanes for the proposed policy to be an equilibrium is that one can choose a median voter on each median hyperplane to be a guaranteed supporter of the proposed policy.
“Uncertain Policy Implementation with Public Information”
Job Market Paper
Recent papers in political accountability have documented the detrimental behavior that results when voters observe an incumbent’s actions or their outcomes because the incumbent distorts her actions in order to signal competence; however, signaling requires private information. We consider a model in which the politician’s information is made publicly available, and voters observe her actions and their outcomes. We call this situation public information. Incumbents are either competent or incompetent. Compared to the status quo, voters are made better off when competent types implement policy, but worse off when incompetent types do so. When information is public, only those who are sufficiently unlikely to be competent, according to the public signal, choose to implement their ideal policy. Those who are likely to be competent prefer the status quo. In contrast, private information provides incentives for those more likely to be competent to implement policy, and some of those least likely to be competent to choose the status quo. Consequently, private information may provide higher welfare than public information.
“Campaigning to Persuade”
When candidates decide which positions to take on major issues, they must always bear in mind the difficulty of selling those positions to the voters. Candidates for office spend enormous resources attempting to persuade voters about the merits of their policy platforms. However, such persuasion is mostly absent from models of spatial competition. While there is a growing literature on Bayesian Persuasion, in which politicians design policy experiments “optimally” to convince voters to support a given idea or candidate, to the best of my knowledge, there is little research on the effect of persuasion on the choice of policy position. If voters’ policy preferences are determined stochastically by the positions of the alternatives offered, what kinds of equilibria would exist?
The answer to this question could provide another explanation for policy divergence, which is a long-standing puzzle in political economy. It could also explain why initially unpopular positions are sometimes victorious and why voters often change their policy positions in relatively short time frames.