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Informative Cheap Talk in Elections

Richard Van Weelden ()

No 6328, Working Paper from Department of Economics, University of Pittsburgh

Abstract: Why do office-motivated politicians sometimes espouse views that are non-congruentwith their electorate’s? Can non-congruent statements convey any information about whata politician will do if elected, and if so, why would voters elect a politician who makessuch statements? Furthermore, can electoral campaigns also directly affect an elected official’sbehavior? We develop a model of credible “cheap talk†—costless and non-bindingcommunication—in elections. The foundation is an endogenous voter preference for apolitician who is known to be non-congruent over one whose congruence is sufficientlyuncertain. This preference arises because uncertainty about an elected official’s policypreferences generates policymaking distortions due to reputation/career concerns. Weshow that cheap talk can alter the electorate’s beliefs about a politician’s policy preferencesand thereby affect the elected official’s behavior. Informative cheap talk can increaseor decrease voter welfare, with a greater scope for welfare benefits when reputation concernsare more important.

Date: 2017-01
New Economics Papers: this item is included in nep-mic and nep-pol
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