nep-pol New Economics Papers
on Positive Political Economics
Issue of 2019‒10‒21
twelve papers chosen by
Eugene Beaulieu
University of Calgary

  1. Victorian Voting: The Origins of Party Orientation and Class Alignment By Dewan, Torun; Meriläinen, Jaakko; Tukiainen, Janne
  2. Media Attention and Strategic Timing in Politics: Evidence from U.S. Presidential Executive Orders By Djourelova, Milena; Durante, Ruben
  3. Fiscal decentralization and electoral participation: Analyzing districts in Indonesia By Farah, Alfa
  4. Corruption and Firms By Colonnelli, Emanuele; Prem, Mounu
  5. Particularism, dominant minorities and institutional change By Raouf Boucekkine; Rodolphe Desbordes; Paolo Melindi-Ghidi
  6. Can Biased Polls Distort Electoral Results? Evidence From The Lab And The Field By Aristotelis Boukouras; Will Jennings; Lunzheng Li; Zacharias Maniadis
  7. Are Political and Economic Integration Intertwined? By Bratsberg, Bernt; Facchini, Giovanni; Frattini, Tommaso; Rosso, Anna
  8. Electoral Sentencing Cycles By Abrams, David; Galbiati, Roberto; Henry, Emeric; Philippe, Arnaud
  9. Complete Information Pivotal-Voter Model with Asymmetric Group Size By Christos Mavridis; Marco Serena
  10. A Geometric Model of Opinion Polarization By Jan H\k{a}z{\l}a; Yan Jin; Elchanan Mossel; Govind Ramnarayan
  11. Political Economy of Oil Resources Management in Nigeria: Lessons from Other Countries By Perekunah B. Eregha; Ekundayo P. Mesagan
  12. Political equality and quality of government By Ezcurra, Roberto; Zuazu, Izaskun

  1. By: Dewan, Torun; Meriläinen, Jaakko; Tukiainen, Janne
    Abstract: Much of what we know about the alignment of voters with parties comes from mass surveys of the electorate in the postwar period or from aggregate electoral data. Using individual elector level panel data from 19th-century United Kingdom poll books, we reassess the development of a party-centred electorate. We show that (i) the electorate was party-centred by the time of the extension of the franchise in 1867; (ii) a decline in candidate-centred voting is largely attributable to changes in the behaviour of the working class; and (iii) the enfranchised working class aligned with the Liberal left. This early alignment of the working class with the left cannot entirely be explained by a decrease in vote buying. The evidence suggests instead that the alignment was based on the programmatic appeal of the Liberals. We argue that these facts can plausibly explain the subsequent development of the party system.
    Keywords: candidate-vs-party-oriented voting, party development, partisan alignment, Local public finance and provision of public services, C23, D72, N33,
    Date: 2019
  2. By: Djourelova, Milena; Durante, Ruben
    Abstract: Do politicians tend to adopt unpopular policies when the media and the public are distracted by other events? We examine this question by analyzing the timing of the signing of executive orders (EOs) by U.S. presidents over the past four decades. We ï¬ nd robust evidence that EOs are more likely to be signed on the eve of days when the news are dominated by other important stories that can crowd out coverage of EOs. Crucially, this relationship only holds in periods of divided government when unilateral presidential actions are more likely to be criticized by a hostile Congress. The eï¬?ect is driven by EOs that are more likely to make the news and to attract negative publicity, particularly those on topics on which president and Congress disagree. Finally, the timing of EOs appears to be related to predictable news but not to unpredictable ones, which suggests it results from a deliberate and forward-looking PR strategy.
    Keywords: Mass Media; Political Accountability; Presidential Powers; Strategic timing; US Politics
    JEL: D02 D72 H11 L82
    Date: 2019–08
  3. By: Farah, Alfa
    Abstract: Many countries have adopted decentralization policies in order to strengthen democratic governance. Nevertheless, empirical literature on whether decentralization actually strengthens democratic governance is relatively limited when compared to empirical literature on the impact of decentralization on a wide array of fiscal or economic variables. Therefore, this paper empirically explores the effect of fiscal decentralization on democratic governance, particularly by highlighting one aspect of democratic governance, namely participation in local elections. Upon analyzing data from districts across Indonesia using the within-between specification, the empirical findings generally suggest that participation in district mayoral elections might not necessarily be driven by the increased autonomy that district have, but rather by some adverse consequences of decentralization such as capture by local elites. In addition, the analysis shows that when a district government gains fiscal power, this might not necessarily encourage electoral participation when the district's budget is mostly allocated to spending that does not benefit the public at large.
    Keywords: fiscal decentralization,fiscal autonomy,voter turnout,local election,the within-between specification
    JEL: H71 H72 H77 D72
    Date: 2019
  4. By: Colonnelli, Emanuele; Prem, Mounu
    Abstract: We estimate the causal real economic effects of a randomized anticorruption crackdown on local governments in Brazil over the period 2003-2014. After anti-corruption audits, municipalities experience an increase in economic activity concentrated in sectors most dependent on government relationships. These effects spill over to nearby municipalities and are larger when the audits are covered by the media. Back-of-the-envelope estimates suggest that $1 away from corruption generates more than $3 in local value added. Using administrative matched employer-employee and firm-level datasets and novel face-to-face firm surveys we argue that corruption mostly acts as a barrier to entry, and by introducing costs and distortions on local government-dependent firms. The political misallocation of resources across firms plays a seemingly secondary role, indicating that at the local level most rents are captured by politicians and public officials rather than firms.
    Keywords: Corruption; Firms; Audits; Public Procurement; Misallocation; Labor Reallocation; Political Connections
    JEL: D73 H83 D22
    Date: 2019–10
  5. By: Raouf Boucekkine (Aix-Marseille Univ, CNRS, EHESS, Ecole Centrale, IMéRA and AMSE, Marseille, France); Rodolphe Desbordes (SKEMA Business School-UCA); Paolo Melindi-Ghidi (EconomiX, Paris-Nanterre University & AMSE Aix-Marseille University, France)
    Abstract: We develop a theory of institutional transition from dictatorship to minority dominant-based regimes. We depart from the standard political transition framework à la Acemoglu-Robinson in four essential ways: (i) population is heterogeneous, there is a minority/majority split, heterogeneity being generic, simply reflecting subgroup size; (ii) there is no median voter in the post-dictatorship period, political and economic competition is favorable to the minority (fiscal particularism); (iii) (windfall) resources are introduced, and (iv) we distinguish between labor income and resources, and labor supply is endogenous. We first document empirically fiscal particularism, its connection with resource endowment, and the impact of both on revolutionary bursts. Second, we construct a full-fledged model incorporating the four characteristics outlined above. We show, among others, that polarization is a sufficient condition for revolutions, while resource rents are not: they do matter though when polarization is low. In agreement with our empirical facts, countries engaging in revolutions tend to be slightly less resource-rich than other countries. We also outline the interplay between resource rents, polarization and labor market conditions at the dawn of institutional change. Our theory is appropriate to understand the institutional dynamics in highly homogeneous resource-rich countries, which after post-independence autocratic regimes, turn to be dominated by minorities, Algeria being the paradigmatic case.
    Keywords: political transition, minority/majority, fiscal particularism, dominant minority, resources, labor market
    JEL: D72 C73 Q32
    Date: 2019–10
  6. By: Aristotelis Boukouras; Will Jennings; Lunzheng Li; Zacharias Maniadis
    Abstract: Biased exposure of voters to the outcome of polls constitutes a risk to the principle of balanced and impartial elections. We first show empirically how modern communication (through social media) may naturally result in such biased exposure. Then, in a series of experiments with a total of 375 participants, we investigate the impact of such biased exposure on election outcomes in an environment where only a strict subset of voters has information on the quality of the two candidates. Thus, polls serve to communicate information to uninformed voters. In our treatment conditions, participants have access to a biased sample of polls’ results, favouring systematically one candidate. Participants in the biased treatment conditions consistently elect the candidate favoured by polls more often than in the unbiased control conditions. Remarkably, this holds even when voters are a priori informed about the bias. Accordingly, our results indicate that – in an experimental setting at least – biased polls distort election results via two channels: (i) by distorting the information set of voters, and (ii) by providing an anchor for subjects’ expectations regarding the election outcome. Overall, biased exposure distorts elections in a very robust manner.
    JEL: D72 D83
    Date: 2019–08
  7. By: Bratsberg, Bernt (Ragnar Frisch Centre for Economic Research); Facchini, Giovanni (University of Nottingham); Frattini, Tommaso (University of Milan); Rosso, Anna (University of Milan)
    Abstract: Economic incentives play a key role in the decision to run for office, but little is known on how they shape immigrants' selection into candidacy. We study this question using a two-period Roy model and show that if returns to labour market experience are higher for migrants than natives, migrants will be less likely to seek office than natives. We empirically assess this prediction using administrative data from Norway, a country with a very liberal regime for participation in local elections. Our results strongly support our theoretical model and indicate that immigrants' political and economic integration are closely intertwined.
    Keywords: immigration, local elections, candidacy decision, labour markets
    JEL: F22 J45 P16
    Date: 2019–09
  8. By: Abrams, David; Galbiati, Roberto; Henry, Emeric; Philippe, Arnaud
    Abstract: Exploiting features of the North-Carolina judicial system, elections and forced rotation of judges, we overcome major challenges hampering the identifi cation of the existence and source of sentencing variation over the electoral cycle. We show that when elections approach, sentencing for felonies increase. This increase is driven by decisions taken by judges present in their district of election, and only when elections are contested. When judges operate outside their district of elections, sentencing decisions do not signi ficantly vary over the electoral cycle. Our results demonstrate the existence of strategic sentencing by judges in an attempt to please voters and allow us to discard alternative explanations for the rise along the cycle, such as behavioral motives or contextual explanations.
    JEL: K42
    Date: 2019–10
  9. By: Christos Mavridis; Marco Serena
    Abstract: In this note, we characterize the equilibria of the standard pivotal-voter participation game between two groups of voters of asymmetric sizes, as originally proposed by Palfrey and Rosenthal [1983. A strategic calculus of voting. Public Choice. 41, 7-53].
    Keywords: Costly voting, pivotal voter model, complete information
    Date: 2018–11
  10. By: Jan H\k{a}z{\l}a; Yan Jin; Elchanan Mossel; Govind Ramnarayan
    Abstract: We introduce a simple, geometric model of opinion polarization. This is a model of political persuasion, as well as marketing and advertising utilizing social values. It focuses on the interplay between different topics and wide-reaching persuasion efforts in the media. We discuss some exploratory examples, analyzing how polarization occurs and evolves. We also examine some computational aspects of choosing the most effective means of influencing agents in our model, along with connections of those computational considerations with polarization.
    Date: 2019–10
  11. By: Perekunah B. Eregha (Pan-Atlantic University, Lekki-Lagos, Nigeria); Ekundayo P. Mesagan (Pan-Atlantic University, Lekki-Lagos, Nigeria)
    Abstract: The study focuses on the political economy of oil resources management in Nigeria with the sole purpose of showcasing how far the country has gone in effectively managing its crude oil proceeds. It presents a brief history on the excess crude account as well as the sovereign wealth fund in Nigeria and then presents the models of excess oil resource management of some other countries. This is to enable Nigeria to draw some lessons and then take steps that guarantees the sustenance of growth and development.
    Keywords: Crude Oil; Political Economy; Sovereign Wealth Fund; Excess Crude Account; Growth; Nigeria
    JEL: D72 D73 D78 Q34 Q43
    Date: 2019–01
  12. By: Ezcurra, Roberto; Zuazu, Izaskun
    Abstract: This paper examines the relationship between political equality and quality of government. Our hypothesis is that political equality fosters access to inclusive education and ultimately promotes good governance. We empirically test this hypothesis using data for 145 countries with different levels of economic development. In order to overcome potential endogeneity problems, our identification strategy exploits the variation in political equality in geographically neighbouring countries by means of spatial econometric techniques. The results reveal a positive and statistically significant effect of political equality on the quality of government. This implies that countries where the political power is more evenly distributed tend on average to have higher levels of institutional quality. In fact, this result is not affected by the inclusion in the analysis of a substantial number of controls that may be correlated with both political equality and quality of government, including the level of democracy and the degree of economic inequality. In fact, the observed link between political equality and governance remains robust to alternative measures of quality of government, estimation techniques, and other sensitivity checks. Our estimates also show that education acts as a transmission channel linking political equality and quality of government.
    Keywords: political equality, quality of government, education.
    JEL: H11 P48
    Date: 2019–10–11

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