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When the light shines too much: Rational inattention and pandering

Federico Trombetta

Journal of Public Economic Theory, 2020, vol. 22, issue 1, 98-145

Abstract: Should voters always pay attention to politics? I explore the role of endogenous costly attention allocation in politics, combining insights from the growing literature on rational inattention with a standard model of political agency. I show that when attention to the action of the politician is endogenous, voters may choose to pay too much attention in equilibrium, and this induces too much political pandering. Moreover when attention to the action and to the state of the world are both endogenous, voters may not pay enough attention the state with respect to the ex ante optimum. A reduction in the total cost of attention does not correct this inefficiency and can even reduce welfare. This model can be a demand‐driven explanation of the under‐provision of analytical contents by news channels.

Date: 2020
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