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Signaling valence in primary elections

Giovanni Andreottola

Games and Economic Behavior, 2021, vol. 126, issue C, 1-32

Abstract: This paper presents a model of two-stage (primary and general) elections in which primary election candidates differ in terms of a privately observed quality dimension (valence). I show that primary election candidates have the incentive to signal their valence by means of their policy platform choice. There can be two types of separating equilibria in primary elections, with opposite implications concerning the relationship between valence and policy extremism. In an extremist equilibrium valent candidates choose more extreme policies than non-valent ones, whereas in a centrist equilibrium valent candidates move close to the incumbent from the opposing party. As a result, primary elections can foster the adoption of extremist policies, but they can also have the opposite effect. This result allows the model to also shed light on the circumstances in which party voters are likely to benefit from the introduction of primary elections.

Keywords: Primary elections; Valence; Policy extremism; Polarization; Signaling (search for similar items in EconPapers)
JEL-codes: D72 D82 (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Date: 2021
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DOI: 10.1016/j.geb.2020.11.008

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