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Activism, Costly Participation, and Polarization

Raghul Venkatesh ()

CRETA Online Discussion Paper Series from Centre for Research in Economic Theory and its Applications CRETA

Abstract: I develop a model of activism and polarization in the context of electoral competition. Two candidates simultaneously announce policy platforms and seek the support of ideologically inclined activists. Activists compete to influence electoral outcomes by expending costly support for their respective candidates. The presence of activists always moderates the platform choice of candidates, compared to the case of no activism. The main finding is to provide conditions under which as activists’ ideological partisanship increases (decreases), polarization of candidate platforms reduces (widens) - meaning candidates may compromise even though their supporters become more extreme. I precisely characterize the conditions under which the presence of activism and increasing partisanship among activists are both welfare-improving for voters. Finally, I identify a novel crowding out effect of big money on the demand for activism. My analysis suggests public funding of elections as an important institutional reform that could mitigate the pernicious effects of high polarization.

Keywords: activism; electoral participation; downsian competition; influence seeking; public funding (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Date: 2017
New Economics Papers: this item is included in nep-cdm, nep-mic and nep-pol
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