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Wisdom of the Crowd? Information Aggregation and Electoral Incentives

Prato, Carlo and Wolton, Stephane (2017): Wisdom of the Crowd? Information Aggregation and Electoral Incentives.

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Abstract

Elections have long been understood as a mean to encourage candidates to act in voters' interest as well as a way to aggregate dispersed information. This paper juxtaposes these two key features within a unified framework. As in models of electoral control, candidates compete for office by strategically proposing policy platforms. As in models of information aggregation, agents are not always informed about the policy which maximizes the electorate welfare. Candidates face a trade-off between acting in the electorate's best interest and maximizing their chance of being elected. We provide conditions under which electoral institutions encourage candidates' conformism---thereby stifling proper competition among ideas---and render information aggregation unfeasible in equilibrium. In extensions, we highlight that the new political failure we uncover cannot be fully resolved by liberalizing access to candidacy or reducing voter information.

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