Campaign messages, polling, and elections: theory and experimental evidence

Nick Feltovich and Francesco Giovannoni

We analyse and test a infinite-horizon model where politicians choose how much of an economy's resources to keep for themselves and how much to allocate to the citizenry. In each period, incumbents face re-election against a challenger, preceded by polling. Both candidates have private information about their own quality which determines the economy's level of resources. We vary (i) whether communication from candidates to voters (campaigning) is possible, and (ii) whether candidates' quality heterogeneity is high or low. Our results show that campaigning matters. Challengers' negative campaigning increases, and incumbents' positive campaigning decreases, when incumbents performed poorly and when quality heterogeneity is high. We also find that both campaigning and higher quality heterogeneity benefit citizens on average at the expense of officials.

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