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The hidden cost of raising voters’ expectations: Reference dependence and politicians’ credibility

Edoardo Grillo

Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, 2016, vol. 130, issue C, 126-143

Abstract: Two politicians compete to get elected. Each politician is characterized by a valence, which is unobservable to the electorate and can take one of two values: high or low. The representative voter prefers politicians with high valence, but random shocks may lead him to appoint a low-valence politician. Politicians make statements concerning their valence. If the voter is a standard expected utility maximizer, politicians’ statements lack any credibility and no information transmission takes place. By introducing reference dependence and loss aversion, we show that truthful communication is possible in equilibrium and we characterize the conditions under which it can arise. Intuitively, these behavioral biases introduce a cost of overstating one's valence as overstatements may shift the electorate's preferences toward better skilled opponents.

Keywords: Cheap talk; Reference dependence; Loss aversion; Electoral competition (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Date: 2016
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DOI: 10.1016/j.jebo.2016.07.008

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Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization is currently edited by Houser, D. and Puzzello, D.

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