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Persuading policy-makers

Christian Salas

Journal of Theoretical Politics, 2019, vol. 31, issue 4, 507-542

Abstract: Interest groups persuade policy-makers by publicly providing information about policies—for example, through commissioning scientific studies or piloting programs—or about constituents’ views—for example, through opinion polls or organizing manifestations. By understanding these public lobbying activities as public signals whose informational content can be strategically manipulated, this paper studies the strategic use of these tools in order to persuade a policy-maker. A game between a policy-oriented interest group who can design a public signal and a self-interested executive who can implement a policy is used to analyze the equilibrium public signal and policy, the underlying persuasion mechanism, and the consequences for voters. This paper finds that, even when an interest group always wants the same policy regardless of the state of the world, voters can sometimes benefit from the group’s activity. Furthermore, voters may be best served by a worse (less able or more cynical) policy-maker. This is because a-priori a worse policy-maker will tend to herd on the prior relatively more than a better policy-maker; this will force interest groups to release greater amounts of information in order to change the policy-maker’s mind, which increases the probability that the voters’ best policy is implemented. Ideologically biased policy-makers are not totally undesirable either, for they induce similar incentives to interest groups of opposite ideology.

Keywords: Accountability; Bayesian persuasion; lobbying (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Date: 2019
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DOI: 10.1177/0951629819875512

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