nep-pol New Economics Papers
on Positive Political Economics
Issue of 2024‒04‒08
eleven papers chosen by
Eugene Beaulieu, University of Calgary

  1. Strategic Policy Responsiveness to Opponent Platforms: Evidence From U.S. House Incumbents Running Against Moderate or Extremist Challengers By Schönenberger, Felix
  2. Out of Office, Out of Step? Re-election Concners and Ideological Shirking in Lame Duck Sessions of the U.S. House of Representatives By Schönenberger, Felix
  3. Inequality and voting in fragile countries: Evidence from Mozambique By Margherita Bove; Eva-Maria Egger; Sam Jones; Patricia Justino; Ricardo Santos
  4. The Political Consequences of Vaccines: Quasi-experimental Evidence from Eligibility Rules By Emilio Depetris-Chauvin; Felipe González
  5. Becoming political: How marching suffragists facilitated women's electoral participation in England By Mona Morgan-Collins; Wayne Valeria Rueda
  6. Informal Elections with Dispersed Information: Protests, Petitions, and Nonbinding Voting By Mehmet Ekmekci; Stephan Lauermann
  7. Wedded to Prosperity? Informal Influence and Regional Favoritism By Pietro Bomprezzi; Axel Dreher; Andreas Fuchs; Teresa Hailer; Andreas Kammerlander; Lennart Kaplan; Silvia Marchesi; Tania Masi; Charlotte Robert; Kerstin Unfried
  8. Political Pandering and Bureaucratic Influence By Simon Lodato; Christos Mavridis; Federico Vaccari
  9. Optimal Fiscal Spending and Deviation Rules under Political Uncertainty By RYO ARAWATARI; Tetsuo Ono
  10. Red herrings: A theory of bad politicians hijacking media attention By Margot Belguise
  11. Political and Business Dynasties: a Social Gradient in Returns to Elite Education By Stéphane Benveniste

  1. By: Schönenberger, Felix
    Abstract: Are politicians ideologically rigid, or do officeholders adjust policy strategically for electoral purposes? This paper sheds new light on this longstanding question by studying how U.S. House incumbents alter their roll call voting record prior to elections depending on their challenger’s platform. Estimating non-incumbent candidates' policy positions using pre-primary transaction-level campaign finance data, I classify as extremist the more liberal (conservative) of the top-two candidates in Democratic (Republican) challenger primaries. Leveraging a regression discontinuity design, I exploit the quasi-random assignment of incumbents to moderate or extremist challengers by close primary elections of the incumbent’s opponent party. I find that incumbents alter their roll-call voting record in the direction of their opponent’s position, committing to a more moderate policy when running against an extremist challenger and differentiating their position from more moderate opponents. Consistent with strategic responsiveness to electoral incentives, policy adjustment to challengers is confined to re-election seeking incumbents and to incumbents defending a seat in a competitive district. I provide suggestive evidence that incumbents' reaction to challengers is conditioned by the presence of third candidates, and reflects a trade-off between persuading swing voters at the center and mobilizing core supporters. Importantly, incumbents' adjustment is not driven by a valence advantage of moderate over extremist challengers but by incumbents’ reaction to opponents’ policy positions, suggesting strategic complementarity of policy platforms.
    Keywords: Elections, Candidate Positions, Congress, Legislator Behavior, Polarization
    JEL: D72 P16
    Date: 2023–12
  2. By: Schönenberger, Felix
    Abstract: Do elections constrain incumbent politicians’ policy choices? To answer this longstanding question, this paper proposes a novel identification strategy to separate electoral incentives from selection effects. Taking advantage of the unique setup of lame-duck sessions in the U.S. Congress, where lame-duck incumbents who lost re-election vote on the same issues as their re-elected colleagues, I use a close election regression discontinuity design to exploit quasirandom assignment of re-election seeking representatives to lame-duck status, which is orthogonal to voter preferences and incumbents’ type. Comparing within-incumbent changes in roll call voting of barely unseated lame ducks to narrowly re-elected co-partisans serving the same congressional term, I find that lame ducks revert to more extreme positions with lame-duck Democrats (Republicans) voting more liberally (conservatively). Consistent with lame ducks’ loss of re-election incentives driving the result, the effect of lame-duck status on roll call extremism is more pronounced among ex-ante more vulnerable legislators. I also consider, but ultimately dismiss, several other mechanisms including emotional backlash, logrolling motives, party control, and selective abstention.
    Keywords: Elections, Accountability, Legislator Behavior, Polarization
    JEL: D72 J45 P16
    Date: 2024–01
  3. By: Margherita Bove; Eva-Maria Egger; Sam Jones; Patricia Justino; Ricardo Santos
    Abstract: The political consequences of economic inequality have been debated in academic and policy circles for centuries. The nature of this relationship seems highly dependent on specific contexts, with empirical studies showing mixed evidence on how economic inequality affects voting and other forms of political participation. This evidence is largely driven by advanced democracies.
    Keywords: Economic inequality, Voting, Elections, Developing countries, Mozambique
    Date: 2024
  4. By: Emilio Depetris-Chauvin; Felipe González
    Abstract: Vaccines are responsible for large increases in human welfare and yet we know little about the political impacts of publicly-managed vaccination campaigns. We fill this gap by studying the case of Chile, which offers a rare combination of a high-stakes election, voluntary voting, and a vaccination process halfway implemented by election day. Crucially, the roll-out of vaccines relied on exogenous eligibility rules which we combine with a pre-analysis plan for causal identification. We find that higher vaccination rates boost political participation and empower challengers irrespective of their party affiliation. Survey evidence suggests that vaccines could have increased preferences for challengers by lowering decision-related anxiety.
    Keywords: vaccines, politics, election, challengers
    Date: 2023
  5. By: Mona Morgan-Collins; Wayne Valeria Rueda
    Abstract: Previous research identifies that women politicians facilitate other women’s political participation. Can women’s political activism also spur women’s electoral participation? Through the study of the British suffragists, we argue that women activists paved the way for other women’s political participation at the time when women politicians were virtually absent. Constructing a novel micro-level dataset of geocoded data from electoral registers, we leverage a unique historical case of the 1913 Women’s Suffrage Pilgrimage. Using a Differences-in-Differences strategy that compares polling divisions based on the proximity to the Pilgrimage across England, we provide evidence that exposure to the suffragists marching for parliamentary suffrage increased registration of women eligible to vote in local elections. Analyzing contemporary news articles, we then document the pathways through which the suffragists incited other women’s political interest and therefore electoral participation. These findings have implications for the realization of substantive representation after suffrage.
    Keywords: Electoral returns; Policy feedback; Public service delivery; Policy experimentation; Education; Political economy; Elections; Randomized controlled trial; Liberia; Information
    Date: 2023
  6. By: Mehmet Ekmekci (Boston College, Department of Economics); Stephan Lauermann (University of Bonn, Department of Economics)
    Abstract: We study information transmission through informal elections. Our leading example is that of protests in which there may be positive costs or benefits of participation. The aggregate turnout provides information to a policy maker. However, the presence of activists adds noise to the turnout. The interplay between noise and participation costs leads to strategic substitution and complementarity effects in citizens’ participation choices, and we characterize the implications for the informativeness of protests. In particular, we show that rather than being a friction, costs may facilitate information transmission by lending credibility to protest participation.
    Keywords: Political Institutions
    JEL: D72
    Date: 2024–03
  7. By: Pietro Bomprezzi; Axel Dreher; Andreas Fuchs; Teresa Hailer; Andreas Kammerlander; Lennart Kaplan; Silvia Marchesi; Tania Masi; Charlotte Robert; Kerstin Unfried
    Abstract: We investigate the informal influence of political leaders’ spouses on the subnational allocation of foreign aid. Building new worldwide datasets on personal characteristics of political leaders and their spouses as well as on geocoded development aid projects (including new data on 19 Western donors), we examine whether those regions within recipient countries that include the birthplace of leaders’ spouses attract more aid during their partners’ time in office. Our findings for the 1990–2020 period suggest that regions including the birthplaces of political leaders’ spouses receive substantially more aid from European donors, the United States, and China. We find that more aid goes to spousal regions prior to elections and that developmental outcomes deteriorate rather than improve as a consequence. For Western aid but not for China, these results stand in some contrast to those for leader regions themselves. This suggests that aid from Western donors is directed from serving obvious political motives to promoting more hidden ones.
    Keywords: informal influence, ODA, favouritism, birth regions, development, political economy
    JEL: D72 F35 O19 O47 P33 R11
    Date: 2024
  8. By: Simon Lodato; Christos Mavridis; Federico Vaccari
    Abstract: This paper examines the impact of bureaucracy on policy implementation in environments where electoral incentives generate pandering. A two-period model is developed to analyze the interactions between politicians and bureaucrats, who are categorized as either aligned -- sharing the voters' preferences over policies -- or intent on enacting policies that favor elite groups. The findings reveal equilibria in which aligned politicians resort to pandering, whereas aligned bureaucrats either support or oppose such behavior. The analysis further indicates that, depending on parameters, any level of bureaucratic influence can maximize the voters' welfare, ranging from scenarios with an all-powerful to a toothless bureaucracy.
    Date: 2024–02
  9. By: RYO ARAWATARI (Faculty of Economics, Doshisha University); Tetsuo Ono (Graduate School of Economics, Osaka University)
    Abstract: This paper characterizes optimal fiscal rules within a model integrating fiscal rule deviations in a two-period political turnover framework. The incumbent party aims to secure favored spending through increased debt issuance due to potential power loss. The study introduces spending and deviation rules, requiring legislative approval for deviations from the spending rule. Analysis shows the optimal deviation rule, favoring flexible responses to stringent spending rules. Furthermore, larger initial debt balances warrant tighter spending rules, while the optimal deviation rule remains unaffected. Additionally, political conflict inf luences deviation rule permissiveness, aligning more with the incumbent party’s preferences as conflicts escalate.
    Keywords: Fiscal rules, Government debt, Political turnover.
    JEL: D72 D78 H62 H63
    Date: 2024–03
  10. By: Margot Belguise
    Abstract: Politicians are sometimes accused of sending “red herrings”, irrelevant information meant to distract their audience from other information. When do they succeed in fooling voters? How is this affected by the media? This paper proposes a model of election with red herring. An incumbent running for re-election may send an irrelevant ”tale” to distract voters from a scandal. Some politicians may simply enjoy telling irrelevant tales, making it difficult for voters to recognize red herrings. Red herrings can thus be ”successful” in that the incumbent is re-elected despite the scandal. Equilibrium characterization sheds light on two non-trivial results. First, the game sometimes has multiple equilibria: society may coordinate on equilibria with no or some successful red herring through a self-fulfilling social norm of tale-telling. However, high media attention to tales may discipline scandal-free politicians due to voter suspicion of tales, leaving a unique equilibrium with no successful red herring. A dynamic extension introduces feedbacks between the pool of politicians and media attention. Polar cases in which red herring is predicted to increase over time or on the contrary disappear are highlighted. A second extension shows that voter polarization is predicted to have ambiguous effects on politician discipline and thereby on screening.
    Date: 2023
  11. By: Stéphane Benveniste (Aix-Marseille Univ., CNRS, AMSE, Marseille, France)
    Abstract: Dynasties constitute a visible sign of intergenerational persistence and raise questions about the legitimacy of the ruling elite. This paper uses data on graduates of elite colleges to explore the influence of political and business dynasties in France. I link nominative data on 103, 309 graduates of 12 French Grandes ´ Ecoles born between 1931 and 1975 to their professional careers as politicians with national-level mandates or as board members of French firms. Identifying lineage through surnames, I find that sons of political and business leaders were substantially more likely than their graduate peers to pursue elite careers themselves, revealing a social gradient in returns to elite education. Political dynasties were particularly sizeable, although progressively declining. These dynasties also affected the composition of the French elite: fewer dynastical board members were graduates of top colleges than their first-generation colleagues. Yet, they were propelled much younger into top business and political positions.
    Keywords: Dynasties, Returns to College Education, intergenerational mobility, Elite Occupations, Politics, Business, Grandes ´ Ecoles.
    JEL: I24 I26 J62 D72 M51
    Date: 2024–03

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