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The pronouncements of paranoid politicians

Guido, Cataife (2007): The pronouncements of paranoid politicians.

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Abstract

This paper models the strategic encounter of two office-motivated candidates who may or may not announce policy. In the case of no announcement, the voters rank the candidates according to prior beliefs. In the case of announcement, the candidates cannot avoid a degree of noise in the voters' interpretation of their announcements. We show that this simple deviation from the standard Downsian setting suffices to overcome previous impossibility results which suggest that not announcing policy can never occur in equilibrium. Also, we extend the model to study the equilibrium when candidates are ambiguity averse. An ambiguity averse candidate is interpreted as being concerned about an ongoing negative campaign against him. This negative campaign would consist in inducing the voters to adopt some interpretation of the candidate's announcement unfavorable to his electoral performance. We show that under ambiguity aversion the candidates opt not to announce position under less stringent conditions than expected utility. Finally, we use data on U.S. Senate elections to test an empirical implication of the model. We find that the relevant coefficient has the sign predicted by the theory and is statistically significant.

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