nep-pol New Economics Papers
on Positive Political Economics
Issue of 2024‒03‒18
twelve papers chosen by
Eugene Beaulieu, University of Calgary

  1. Do Incompetent Politicians Breed Populist Voters? Evidence from Italian Municipalities By Boffa Federico; Mollisi Vincenzo; Ponzetto A. M. Giacomo
  2. The Populist Dynamic: Experimental Evidence on the Effects of Countering Populism By Galasso, Vincenzo; Morelli, Massimo; Nannicini, Tommaso; Stanig, Piero
  3. How Do Voters Respond to Welfare Vis-a-Vis Public Good Programs? Theory and Evidence of Political Clientelism By Pranab Bardhan; Sandip Mitra; Dilip Mookherjee; Anusha Nath
  4. From Couch to Poll: Media Content and The Value of Local Information By Bühler Mathias; Andrew Dickens
  5. Finite- and Large-Sample Inference for Ranks using Multinomial Data with an Application to Ranking Political Parties By Sergei Bazylik; Magne Mogstad; Joseph Romano; Azeem Shaikh; Daniel Wilhelm
  6. Economic insecurity and the demand for populism in Europe By Guiso, L.; Herrera, H.; Morelli, M.; Sonno, Tommaso
  7. Sixty Years of the Voting Rights Act: Progress and Pitfalls By Andrea Bernini; Giovanni Facchini; Marco Tabellini; Cecilia Testa
  8. Does Size Really Affect Turnout? Evidence from Italian Municipal Amalgamations By Bolgherini Silvia; Mollisi Vincenzo
  9. Do female leaders choose women? evidence from visible and hidden appointments By Andrea Cintolesi; Edoardo Frattola
  10. Political Fragility: Coups d’État and Their Drivers By Aliona Cebotari; Enrique Chueca-Montuenga; Yoro Diallo; Yunsheng Ma; Ms. Rima A Turk; Weining Xin; Harold Zavarce
  11. Declining Clientelism of Welfare Benefits? Targeting and Political Competition based Evidence from an Indian state By Pushkar Maitra; Sandip Mitra; Dilip Mookherjee; Sujata Visaria
  12. LLM Voting: Human Choices and AI Collective Decision Making By Joshua C. Yang; Marcin Korecki; Damian Dailisan; Carina I. Hausladen; Dirk Helbing

  1. By: Boffa Federico (Faculty of Economics and Management, Free University of Bozen/Bolzano and Collegio Carlo Alberto, Italy;); Mollisi Vincenzo (Department of Economics, Social Studies, Applied Mathematics and Statistics, University of Torino, Torino, Italy;); Ponzetto A. M. Giacomo (CREI, UPF, IPEG and BSE, Spain;)
    Abstract: Poor performance by the established political class can drive voters towards anti- establishment outsiders. Is the ineffectiveness 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 significant 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 efficiency, Politician quality, Political agency.
    JEL: D72 D73 H70
    Date: 2024–02
  2. By: Galasso, Vincenzo (Bocconi University); Morelli, Massimo (Bocconi University); Nannicini, Tommaso (European University Institute); Stanig, Piero (Bocconi University)
    Abstract: We evaluate how traditional parties may respond to populist parties on issues aligning with populist messages. During the 2020 Italian referendum on the reduction of members of Parliament, we conducted a large-scale field experiment, exposing 200 municipalities to nearly a million impressions of programmatic advertisement. Our treatments comprised two video ads against the reform: one debunking populist rhetoric and another attributing blame to populist politicians. This anti-populist campaign proved effective through demobilization, as it reduced both turnout and the votes in favor of the reform. Notably, the effects were more pronounced in municipalities with lower rates of college graduates, higher unemployment, and a history of populist votes. This exogenous influence introduced a unique populist dynamic, observable in the 2022 national election where treated municipalities showed increased support for Brothers of Italy, a rising populist party, and decreased support for both traditional parties and the populists behind the 2020 reform. A follow-up survey further showed increased political interest and diminished trust in political institutions among the residents of municipalities targeted by the campaign.
    Keywords: voting, populism, randomized controlled trial
    JEL: D72 C93
    Date: 2024–02
  3. By: Pranab Bardhan; Sandip Mitra; Dilip Mookherjee; Anusha Nath
    Abstract: Using rural household survey data from West Bengal, we find that voters respond positively to excludable government welfare benefits but not to local public good programs, while reporting having benefited from both. Consistent with these voting patterns, shocks to electoral competition induced by exogenous redistricting of villages resulted in upper-tier governments manipulating allocations across local governments only for excludable benefit programs. Using a hierarchical budgeting model, we argue these results provide credible evidence of the presence of clientelism rather than programmatic politics.
    JEL: H40 H75 H76 O10 P48
    Date: 2024–02
  4. By: Bühler Mathias (LMU Munich); Andrew Dickens (Brock University)
    Abstract: We document the importance of local information in mass media for the political engagement of citizens and accountability of politicians. We study this in the context of Canada, where until 1958, competition in television markets was suppressed—Canadians received either public or private television content, but never both. While public television provided national-level informational content, private television content was distinctly local and more politically relevant to voters. We find that the introduction of television reduced voter turnout, but that this effect is exclusive to public television districts. Our findings qualify existing knowledge about the political effects of the rollout of new media, by allowing the informational content to vary while holding the media type constant. We support this argument with evidence from parliamentary debates: politicians from districts with private television are more likely to speak and act on behalf of their constituents in Parliament. Our findings thus suggest that politicians are held accountable by relevant media content.
    JEL: D72 L82 N42
    Date: 2024–02–14
  5. By: Sergei Bazylik; Magne Mogstad; Joseph Romano; Azeem Shaikh; Daniel Wilhelm
    Abstract: It is common to rank different categories by means of preferences that are revealed through data on choices. A prominent example is the ranking of political candidates or parties using the estimated share of support each one receives in surveys or polls about political attitudes. Since these rankings are computed using estimates of the share of support rather than the true share of support, there may be considerable uncertainty concerning the true ranking of the political candidates or parties. In this paper, we consider the problem of accounting for such uncertainty by constructing confidence sets for the rank of each category. We consider both the problem of constructing marginal confidence sets for the rank of a particular category as well as simultaneous confidence sets for the ranks of all categories. A distinguishing feature of our analysis is that we exploit the multinomial structure of the data to develop confidence sets that are valid in finite samples. We additionally develop confidence sets using the bootstrap that are valid only approximately in large samples. We use our methodology to rank political parties in Australia using data from the 2019 Australian Election Survey. We find that our finite-sample confidence sets are informative across the entire ranking of political parties, even in Australian territories with few survey respondents and/or with parties that are chosen by only a small share of the survey respondents. In contrast, the bootstrap-based confidence sets may sometimes be considerably less informative. These findings motivate us to compare these methods in an empirically-driven simulation study, in which we conclude that our finite-sample confidence sets often perform better than their large-sample, bootstrap-based counterparts, especially in settings that resemble our empirical application.
    Date: 2024–01
  6. By: Guiso, L.; Herrera, H.; Morelli, M.; Sonno, Tommaso
    Abstract: We document the spiral of populism in Europe and the direct and indirect role of economic insecurity shocks. Using survey data on individual voting, we make two contributions to the literature. (i) Economic insecurity shocks have a significant impact on the populist vote share, directly as demand for protection, and indirectly through the induced changes in trust and attitudes. (ii) A key consequence of increased economic insecurity is a drop in turnout. The impact of this largely neglected turnout effect is substantial: conditional on voting, when economic insecurity increases, almost 40% of the induced change in the vote for a populist party comes from the turnout channel.
    Keywords: 694583
    JEL: J1
    Date: 2024–02–13
  7. By: Andrea Bernini; Giovanni Facchini; Marco Tabellini; Cecilia Testa
    Abstract: We review the literature on the effects of the 1965 Voting Rights Act (VRA), which removed formal restrictions to Black political participation. After a brief description of racial discrimination suffered by Black Americans since Reconstruction, we introduce the goals that the VRA was meant to achieve. Next, we discuss the local level impact of the law on political participation and representation, on public goods provision and policing practices, and on labor market outcomes. We then turn to whites’ reactions, from political realignment to electoral counter-mobilization to changes in voting rules and arrests patterns. We conclude by discussing how the evidence reviewed in this article can inform policy-making and the design of legislation aimed at reducing racial discrimination and inequality.
    Date: 2024–02–20
  8. By: Bolgherini Silvia (Department of Political Sciences, University of Perugia, Perugia, Italy;); Mollisi Vincenzo (Department of Economics, Social Studies, Applied Mathematics and Statistics, University of Torino, Torino, Italy;)
    Abstract: Evidence on the electoral participation at the municipal level usually points to a detrimental effect of an enlarged size (due to amalgamation) at the following municipal elections. Contrary to previous studies, our results show an overall positive effect of amalgamation on municipal turnout: larger units do not necessarily vote less than smaller ones. In a quasi-experimental Difference-in-difference design following Callaway and Sant'Anna (2020), we find that the final municipal size per se does not explain turnout after amalgamation. Hence the traditional claim that a larger size should depress municipal turnout does not always hold. Cross- and within municipal heterogeneity emerges instead as a crucial lens for explaining such evidence. In particular, municipalities with higher dissent towards amalgamation show higher turnouts at the following municipal election. This article is the first study relative to Southern Europe and considers all municipalities merged between 2013 and 2019 in Italy.
    Keywords: Municipal amalgamations, Turnout, Local institutions' Size, Referendum, Consent/dissent, Political efficacy, Difference-in-Difference
    JEL: H7 H70 H77 D7 D72
    Date: 2024–02
  9. By: Andrea Cintolesi (Bank of Italy); Edoardo Frattola (Bank of Italy)
    Abstract: We study whether female leaders appoint more women to executive positions than their male counterparts. We use mixed-gender close elections in Italian municipalities since 1993 and observe the share of women appointed by mayors to the local government (visible appointments) and to the boards of directors of municipal state-owned enterprises (hidden appointments). We find that when a woman narrowly defeats a man, the share of women appointed to visible positions drops by 5.7 percentage points, while the share of women appointed to hidden positions does not change. The effect does not appear until the early 2000s, when gender issues began to receive attention, and it occurs earlier in regions where public opinion is more sensitive to gender equality. These findings suggest that male leaders appoint more women to visible positions because they are subject to greater scrutiny on gender issues than female leaders.
    Keywords: gender, female leaders, close elections, appointments
    JEL: J16 D72 M50
    Date: 2023–12
  10. By: Aliona Cebotari; Enrique Chueca-Montuenga; Yoro Diallo; Yunsheng Ma; Ms. Rima A Turk; Weining Xin; Harold Zavarce
    Abstract: The paper explores the drivers of political fragility by focusing on coups d’état as symptomatic of such fragility. It uses event studies to identify factors that exhibit significantly different dynamics in the runup to coups, and machine learning to identify these stressors and more structural determinants of fragility—as well as their nonlinear interactions—that create an environment propitious to coups. The paper finds that the destabilization of a country’s economic, political or security environment—such as low growth, high inflation, weak external positions, political instability and conflict—set the stage for a higher likelihood of coups, with overlapping stressors amplifying each other. These stressors are more likely to lead to breakdowns in political systems when demographic pressures and underlying structural weaknesses (especially poverty, exclusion, and weak governance) are present or when policies are weaker, through complex interactions. Conversely, strengthened fundamentals and macropolicies have higher returns in structurally fragile environments in terms of staving off political breakdowns, suggesting that continued engagement by multilateral institutions and donors in fragile situations is likely to yield particularly high dividends. The model performs well in predicting coups out of sample, having predicted a high probability of most 2020-23 coups, including in the Sahel region.
    Keywords: Fragility; Drivers of Fragility; Coup d’État; Machine Learning
    Date: 2024–02–16
  11. By: Pushkar Maitra; Sandip Mitra; Dilip Mookherjee; Sujata Visaria
    Abstract: It has been argued that since 2014, under the BJP-led central government, welfare benefits in India have become better targeted and less prone to clientelistic control by state and local governments. Arguably this has helped to increase the vote share of the BJP vis-a-vis regional parties. We test these hypotheses using longitudinal data from 3500 rural households in the state of West Bengal. We fail to find evidence that the new “central” programs introduced after 2014 were better targeted than traditional “state” programs, or that the targeting of state programs improved after 2014. Households receiving the new “central” benefits introduced since 2014 were more likely to switch their political support to the BJP. However, changes in the scale, composition or targeting of these programs, in clientelistic effectiveness of traditional state programs or in household incomes, fail to account for the large observed increase in the voters' support for the BJP. Non-Hindus, especially recent immigrant non-Hindus, were much less likely to switch support to the BJP, even after controlling for benefits received and changes in household incomes. Our results suggest that ideology and identity politics were more important factors explaining the rising popularity of the BJP.
    JEL: H53 H75 O17 O23 P43
    Date: 2024–02
  12. By: Joshua C. Yang; Marcin Korecki; Damian Dailisan; Carina I. Hausladen; Dirk Helbing
    Abstract: This paper investigates the voting behaviors of Large Language Models (LLMs), particularly OpenAI's GPT4 and LLaMA2, and their alignment with human voting patterns. Our approach included a human voting experiment to establish a baseline for human preferences and a parallel experiment with LLM agents. The study focused on both collective outcomes and individual preferences, revealing differences in decision-making and inherent biases between humans and LLMs. We observed a trade-off between preference diversity and alignment in LLMs, with a tendency towards more uniform choices as compared to the diverse preferences of human voters. This finding indicates that LLMs could lead to more homogenized collective outcomes when used in voting assistance, underscoring the need for cautious integration of LLMs into democratic processes.
    Date: 2024–01

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