nep-pol New Economics Papers
on Positive Political Economics
Issue of 2018‒04‒02
six papers chosen by
Eugene Beaulieu
University of Calgary

  1. Was Obama Elected by the Internet? Broadband Diffusion and Voters' Behavior in US Presidential Elections By Valentino Larcinese; Luke Miner
  2. Upward Income Mobility and Legislator Support for Education Policies By Bellani, Luna; Fabella, Vigile Marie
  3. Political Campaigns and Church Contributions By Daniel M. Hungerman; Kevin Rinz; Tim Weninger; Chungeun Yoon
  4. Race, Representation and Local Governments in the US South: the effect of the Voting Rights Act By Bernini, Andrea; Facchini, Giovanni; Testa, Cecilia
  5. A Theory of Small Campaign Contributions By Bouton, Laurent; Castanheira, Micael; Drazen, Allan
  6. Choked by Red Tape? The Political Economy of Wasteful Trade Barriers By Peter Neary; Giovanni Maggi; Monika Mrázová

  1. By: Valentino Larcinese; Luke Miner
    Abstract: What are the political consequences of the diffusion of broadband internet? We address this question by studying the 2008 US presidential election, the first political campaign where the internet played a key role. Drawing on data from the FEC and the FCC, we provide robust evidence that internet penetration in US counties is associated with an increase in turnout, an increase in campaign contributions to the Democrats and an increase in the share of Democratic vote. We then propose an IV strategy to deal with potential endogeneity concerns: we exploit geographic discontinuities along state borders with different right-of-way laws, which constitute the main determinant of the cost of building new infrastructure. IV estimates confirm a positive impact of broadband diffusion on turnout, while the pro-Democratic Party effect of the internet appears to be less robust.
    Keywords: internet diffusion, political economy of the media, United States elections, turnout, campaign contributions
    JEL: D72 L86
    Date: 2018
  2. By: Bellani, Luna (University of Konstanz); Fabella, Vigile Marie (University of Konstanz)
    Abstract: This paper investigates how upward mobility affects legislator voting behavior towards education policies. We develop an electoral competition model where voters are altruistic parents and politicians are office seeking. In this setting the future economic status of the children is affected both by current public education spending and by the level of upward mobility. Using a newly compiled dataset of roll call voting on California education legislation matched with electoral district-level upward mobility we find that the likelihood of a legislator voting "no" on redistributive education bills decreases by 10 percentage points when upward mobility in his electoral district decreases by a standard deviation.
    Keywords: upward income mobility, education policies, legislator voting behavior, roll call votes, California
    JEL: I24 D72 H4
    Date: 2018–02
  3. By: Daniel M. Hungerman; Kevin Rinz; Tim Weninger; Chungeun Yoon
    Abstract: We combine a new dataset of weekly Catholic church donations with a new dataset of presidential-election campaign stops to explore the impact of stops on donations. We find that stops increase donations, with a campaign stop generating 2 percent more donations in the following week. Our results suggest that this effect is of short duration. Further, it does not appear to vary based on the political language used by the parish in its own church bulletins. However, the effect does appear to vary based on the religiosity of the candidates themselves, with Catholic candidates generating the largest increases.
    JEL: D72 H41 Z12
    Date: 2018–03
  4. By: Bernini, Andrea; Facchini, Giovanni; Testa, Cecilia
    Abstract: The Voting Rights Act of 1965 opened elective offices to blacks in the US South, but systematic evidence on its immediate effects remains scant. Using a novel data-set on black elected officials between 1964-1980, we assess the causal impact of the VRA on the racial make-up of local governments. Since the VRA mandated federal scrutiny (coverage) over a group of Southern counties, we deploy a differences-in-differences estimation strategy using non-covered counties as a comparison group. Our results show that coverage doubled the extent to which black enfranchisement led to gains in black office-holding, particularly among bodies controlling local public finances.
    Keywords: Black Representation; Local Elections; Public Good Provision; Voting Rights Act
    JEL: D72 J15 N92
    Date: 2018–03
  5. By: Bouton, Laurent; Castanheira, Micael; Drazen, Allan
    Abstract: We present a model of electorally-motivated, small campaign contributions. The analysis uncovers interesting interactions among small donors and has novel implications for the effect of income inequality on total contributions and election outcomes. Moreover, it helps explain a number of empirical observations that seem anomalous when contributions are driven by the consumption or the influence motives. We also study the impact of different forms of campaign finance laws on contribution behavior, probabilities of electoral outcomes, and welfare. Our results are consistent with more behaviorally motivated donors when contributions are driven by the parties' strategic solicitation of funds. We also indicate how the model and its results may have important implications for empirical work on campaign contributions.
    Keywords: Campaign Contributions; Campaign Finance Laws; Electoral Motive; Income inequality
    JEL: D72
    Date: 2018–03
  6. By: Peter Neary; Giovanni Maggi; Monika Mrázová
    Abstract: Abstract Red-tape barriers (RTBs) are an important source of trade costs, but have received little scholarly attention. Here we take a first step toward a theory of RTBs, and show that their implications are very different from those of more traditional trade barriers. Our model highlights that RTBs have important impacts on the extensive margin of trade, and yields rich predictions on how changes in the political-economic environment and product characteristics affect RTBs. Taking into account the endogenous response of RTBs is crucial to understanding the impact of reductions in tariffs and natural trade costs on the extensive and intensive margins of trade, as well as on welfare. Moreover, the availability of RTBs affects in important ways the tariff commitments that are specified in a trade agreement.
    Keywords: International trade policy; Non-Tari Measures; Political economy; Red tape barriers; Trade agreements
    JEL: F13 D7 F55
    Date: 2018–03–21

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