nep-pol New Economics Papers
on Positive Political Economics
Issue of 2023‒04‒03
thirteen papers chosen by
Eugene Beaulieu
University of Calgary

  1. Do incompetent politicians breed populist voters? Evidence from Italian municipalities By Federico Boffa; Vincenzo Mollisi; Giacomo A. M. Ponzetto
  2. Does Schooling Affect Political Attitudes? Quasi-Experimental Evidence By Dominik Stelzeneder
  3. Electoral Importance and the News Market: Novel Data and Quasi-Experimental Evidence from India By Cagé, Julia; Cassan, Guilhem; Jensenius, Francesca R
  4. Is there an economic and political cycle in social spending? Evidence from a panel of Argentine provinces for 1993-2020 By María Angélica Tan Jun Ríos
  5. Can Grassroots Organizations Reduce Support for Right-Wing Populism via Social Media? By Johannes Wimmer; Leonhard Vollmer
  6. Simplistic Rhetoric and Poe’s Law By Giovanni Andreottola; Elia Sartori
  7. Income and the (eventual) rise of democracy By Dario Debowicz; Alex Dickson; Ian A. MacKenzie; Petros G. Sekeris
  8. Obvious manipulations of tops-only voting rules By Pablo Arribillaga; Agustín Bonifacio
  9. Foreign Influence as Constituency Cultivation By Ethan B. Kapstein; Scott A. Tyson; Audrye Wong
  10. Voting under Debtor Distress By Jakub Grossmann; Stepan Jurajda
  11. Who Registers? Village Networks, Household Dynamics, and Voter Registration in Rural Uganda By Romain Ferrali; Guy Grossman; Melina Platas; Jonathan Rodden
  12. Impact of Social Media-Enabled Technology Innovation on Government: A Perspective By Goyal, Krishna
  13. The aftermath of Nigeria’s 2023 presidential elections and its impact on the sub-region By Kohnert, Dirk

  1. By: Federico Boffa; Vincenzo Mollisi; Giacomo A. M. Ponzetto
    Abstract: Poor performance by the established political class can drive voters towards anti-establishment outsiders. Is the inffectiveness of incumbent politicians an important driver of the recent rise of populist parties? We provide an empirical test exploiting a sharp discontinuity in the wage of local politicians as a function of population in Italian municipalities. We find that the more skilled local politicians and more effective local government in municipalities above the threshold cause a signiÂ…cant drop in voter support for the populist Five-Star Movement in regional and national elections. Support for incumbent governing parties increases instead.
    Keywords: Populism, Government e¢ ciency, Politician quality, Political agency
    JEL: D72 D73 H70
    Date: 2023–03
  2. By: Dominik Stelzeneder
    Abstract: In this paper I study the direct causal effects of schooling on political attitudes of vocational students in Austria. I exploit that classes of apprentices of the same grade level and vocation are as good as randomly assigned to different school terms. This allows to compare apprentices who were at school for ten weeks with apprentices who were at work in their training firms during that time. I find that schooling has a positive direct causal effect on political interest of vocational students. This increase in political interest is, however, not accompanied by a significant increase in voting intention. Furthermore, my results suggest that apprentices who went to school while being exposed to a political affair support different parties than those apprentices who were exposed to the affair at work.
    Date: 2023–03
  3. By: Cagé, Julia (Sciences Po Paris); Cassan, Guilhem (University of Namur, CAGE); Jensenius, Francesca R (University of Oslo)
    Abstract: Information conveyed through news media influences political behavior. But to what extent are media markets themselves shaped by political motives? We build a novel panel data set of newspaper markets in India from 2002 to 2017 to measure the impact of changes in electoral importance on how news markets develop over time. We exploit the announcement of an exogenous change in the boundaries of electoral constituencies to causally identify the relationship between the (future) electoral importance of news markets and the change in the number and circulation of newspapers. Using an event-study approach and a staggered difference-in-differences approach, we show that markets that became more electorally important experienced a significant rise in both circulation and the number of titles per capita. Both supply and demand seem to drive the increase, but we estimate that the former explains almost all the variation in the short run and around 60% in the long run. Finally, we document how effects vary with prior levels of political competition and newspapers' characteristics, and discuss implications for voting behavior and democratic accountability.
    Keywords: newspapers, media, India, malapportionment, redistricting JEL Classification: L82, D72
    Date: 2023
  4. By: María Angélica Tan Jun Ríos
    Abstract: The Political Budget Cycles (PBC) are fundamental features of democratic regimes. Theoretical models and most of the empirical literature sustain that opportunistic incumbents manipulate fiscal policy to retain power. Using a panel data of al 24 Argentine subnational districts spanning over the lapse 1993 - 2020, I study the behavior of social spending in election and non-election years for the whole period and for different subperiods. I also explore the performance of social spending subgroups as well as partisan effects. My dynamic panel data estimations confirm that social spending increases in election years, although there are substantial differences across spending subgroups. In contrast with Calvo and Murillo (2004) I find no partisan effects in election years.
    JEL: D72 P16
    Date: 2022–11
  5. By: Johannes Wimmer (LMU Munich); Leonhard Vollmer (LMU Munich)
    Abstract: The rise of right-wing populism throughout Western democracies coincided with an increasing adoption of social media – both among supporters and opponents of right-wing populism alike. In light of these trends, we assess whether grassroots organizations are effective in combating right-wing populism via social media. We study this question using a tightly controlled online field experiment embedded in the Facebook campaign of a German grassroots organization. Leveraging geo-spatial variation in where the organization disseminated its Facebook ads targeting Germany’s leading right-wing populist party (AfD), we find that the campaign did not significantly affect the AfD’s vote share and turnout. Drawing on data from a complementary online experiment, we show that insufficient outreach on Facebook together with the absence of individual-level responses of attitudes and behavior explains why the campaign did not meaningfully shape aggregate election outcomes.
    Date: 2023–03–15
  6. By: Giovanni Andreottola (Vienna University of Economics and Business (WU) and CSEF); Elia Sartori (CSEF)
    Abstract: We study the use of simplistic arguments in political communication, developing a novel model of mobilization through rhetoric with naive and sophisticated voters. We show that politicians sometimes choose simplistic arguments in order to appear more competent, exploiting what we call Poe’s Law, that is, the uncertainty on whether the argument used by the politician reflects her own competence or is ‘degraded’ to meet the demand for simplistic arguments of the naive electorate. We compare the Bayes Nash game with a game in which sophisticated voters are unable to conceptualize Poe’s Law, dismissing their peers’ cognitive abilities and identifying with a leader that speaks to a fully naive crowd. The two games have opposed predictions on how expected simplism departs from its demand-driven benchmark, as well as on the interpretation of extreme arguments. Our results demonstrate that dismissal is a valid rationalization of an overly simplistic political debate.
    Keywords: Simplistic rhetoric, Dismissal, Poe’s Law, Populism.
    JEL: D72 D82 D83 D91
    Date: 2023–02–17
  7. By: Dario Debowicz (School of Management, Swansea University, Bay Campus, Fabian Way, Swansea SA1 8EN, United Kingdom.); Alex Dickson (Department of Economics, University of Strathclyde, Glasgow, UK, G4 0QU.); Ian A. MacKenzie (School of Economics, University of Queensland, Brisbane, Australia); Petros G. Sekeris (TBS Business School, 1 Place A. Jourdain, 31000 Toulouse, France.)
    Abstract: We investigate the relationship between income and democracy. A theoretical framework is developed where citizens derive utility from both material goods and democratic rights. Citizens can devote their time either to creating material benefits or to political activism (that improves democratic liberties). We demonstrate a non-monotonic relationship between income and democracy. In poor countries—where the elasticity of the marginal rate of substitution between material good and democratic rights is low—exogenous increases in income (wages) lead to a reduction in the level of democratic liberties: as wages increase, citizens are increasingly willing to give up time otherwise devoted to activism to work more. In wealthy countries, the opposite is true: democratic liberties increase with income. Our country fixed-effects and GMM estimations on cross-country data over 1960- 2010 empirically validate this non-monotonic prediction, thereby corroborating our theory above-and-beyond the effect of institutions and culture.
    Keywords: Income, Democratic Values, Preferences
    JEL: C72 D72 P16 P26
    Date: 2023–03
  8. By: Pablo Arribillaga; Agustín Bonifacio
    Abstract: In a classical voting problem with a finite set of (at least three) alternatives to choose from, we study the manipulation of tops-only and unanimous rules. Since strategy-proofness is impossible to obtain on the universal domain of (strict) preferences, we investigate the weaker concept of non-obvious manipulability (NOM). First, we show that NOM is equivalent to every veto from any agent being a strong veto. Second, we focus on two classes of tops-only rules: (i) (generalized) median voter schemes, and (ii) voting by committees. For each class, we identify which rules satisfy NOM on the universal domain of preferences.
    JEL: D71
    Date: 2022–11
  9. By: Ethan B. Kapstein (Princeton University); Scott A. Tyson (Emory University); Audrye Wong (University of Southern California)
    Abstract: How do foreign agents, representing countries or other political actors, exert political influence in another country? While considerable theoretical and empirical attention are devoted to coercion (explicit or implicit) and corruption, other channels of political influence across countries have received far less consideration. In this article, we develop a novel theory of constituency cultivation, which is targeted investments by foreign actors that promote greater alignment between their interests and those of politically important groups/individuals in another country. We examine two key ingredients that influence constituency cultivation, pre-existing interest congruence and coordination salience (on decisions favoring the foreign actor). We show that increases in interest congruence and higher coordination salience reduce effort by a foreign actor on cultivating a constituency. Finally, we extend our theory to include corruption and show that it corresponds to a special case of equilibrium selection.
    Keywords: China; Political Influence; Constituencies; Belt and Road Initiative; Lobbying; Southeast Asia
    JEL: D72 F51
    Date: 2022–12
  10. By: Jakub Grossmann; Stepan Jurajda
    Abstract: There is growing evidence on the role of economic conditions in the recent successes of populist and extremist parties. However, little is known about the role of over-indebtedness, even though debtor distress has grown in Europe following the financial crisis. We study the unique case of the Czech Republic, where by 2017, nearly one in ten citizens had been served at least one debtor distress warrant even though the country consistently features low unemployment. Our municipality-level difference-in-differences analysis asks about the voting consequences of a rise in debtor distress following a 2001 deregulation of consumer-debt collection. We find that debtor distress has a positive effect on support for (new) extreme right and populist parties, but a negative effect on a (traditional) extreme-left party. The effects of debtor distress we uncover are robust to whether and how we control for economic hardship; the effects of debtor distress and economic hardship are of similar magnitude, but operate in opposing directions across the political spectrum.
    Keywords: Debtor distress; distress warrants; populist parties; extremist parties; the Czech Republic;
    JEL: D72 D18 G51
    Date: 2023–02
  11. By: Romain Ferrali (New York University [Abu Dhabi] - NYU - NYU System, AMSE - Aix-Marseille Sciences Economiques - EHESS - École des hautes études en sciences sociales - AMU - Aix Marseille Université - ECM - École Centrale de Marseille - CNRS - Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique); Guy Grossman (University of Pennsylvania); Melina Platas (New York University [Abu Dhabi] - NYU - NYU System); Jonathan Rodden (Stanford University)
    Abstract: Who registers to vote? Although extensive research has examined the question of who votes, our understanding of the determinants of political participation will be limited until we know who is missing from the voter register. Studying voter registration in lower-income settings is particularly challenging due to data constraints. We link the official voter register with a complete social network census of 16 villages to analyze the correlates of voter registration in rural Uganda, examining the role of individual-level attributes and social ties. We find evidence that social ties are important for explaining registration status within and across households. Village leaders-and through them, household heads-play an important role in explaining the registration status of others in the village, suggesting a diffuse process of social influence. Socioeconomic factors such as income and education do not explain registration in this setting. Together these findings suggest an alternate theory of participation is required.
    Keywords: African politics, elections, public opinion, voting behavior, representation, electoral systems
    Date: 2022–05
  12. By: Goyal, Krishna
    Abstract: The relationship between social media and government can be seen as one with a strong future, since social media has the potential to be an excellent tool for communicating with constituents, initiating campaigns, building awareness about initiatives, and providing communication support at critical times. There is no doubt that governments, politicians, and lawmakers alike understand how social media has played a major role in their communication strategies in recent years. Having an engaged citizenry is the key to a successful democracy, and social media is the best way to engage citizens in your democracy. By leveraging social media, government entities can be able to interact directly with citizens in a more personal and accessible manner than is possible through press conferences, television appearances, or ad campaigns, which is one of the most efficient and effective ways of interacting with citizens. A lot of benefits can be gained by individuals who work in government agencies by understanding how social media, if used correctly, can be a great tool to provide them with information and resources. As a result of the direct engagement with the public on social media, even when the best intentions are in place, it is essential that government accounts are prepared for the challenges that will arise as a result of directly engaging with the public on social media.
    Keywords: social media, government agencies, political openion, channels for communication, democratizing media, digitization, economy
    JEL: O1 O32 Q55
    Date: 2021–04–17
  13. By: Kohnert, Dirk
    Abstract: Presidential elections were held in Nigeria on 25 February 2023. The candidate of Nigeria's ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) party Bola Ahmed Tinubu won the election. He was known as a political 'godfather' in the South West. His major contender, Atiku Abubakar, 76, running on behalf of the major oppositional People's Democratic Party (PDP) lost, as well as the third, Peter Obi, 61, a candidate for the little-known Labor Party. He had hoped to break the two-party system that ruled the country since the end of military rule. But he failed despite enjoying passionate support on social media, especially among the Nigerian youth. Acting President Buhari, whose term has ended, had renewed his call for foreign powers not to interfere in Nigeria's internal affairs. Given the recent history of military coups in West Africa, including Russia's involvement, the military command again dismissed coup rumours. However, the latter were largely ignored by the general public anyway. Most people focused on more pressing concerns such as insecurity, fuel shortages and a shortage of new banknotes. Although Nigeria is a resource-rich country and oil and gas revenues have funded national budgets for decades, around 40% of Nigerians (83 million people) live below the poverty line while another 25% (53 million) are at risk. So far, Nigeria has not been able to benefit from rising global oil prices. Oil production has fallen to historic lows since 2021. Gasoline subsidies continue to consume too much of oil revenue. Nigeria's growth prospects are bleak due to further declines in oil production and heightened uncertainty. The new president has to cooperate closely with ECOWAS to tackle gang violence and insecurity in the West African region. The cooperation documents Nigeria's role as a political, economic and security policy hegemon in West Africa, often said ‘too big to fail’, as it is by far the largest and most powerful nation in sub-Saharan Africa alongside South Africa.
    Keywords: Nigeria; presidential election; governance; Military coup; conspiracy theory; deep state; Poverty; Boko Haram; international trade; migration; sustainable development; West-Africa; ECOWAS; WAEMU; Sub-Saharan Africa; African Studies;
    JEL: D31 D62 D63 D72 D74 E26 F15 F22 F35 F52 F63 N17 N37 N47 O17 O35 Z13
    Date: 2023–03–02

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