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Ambiguity and Extremism in Elections

28 Pages Posted: 2 Jul 2008  

Alberto F. Alesina

Harvard University - Department of Economics; Centre for Economic Policy Research (CEPR); National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

Richard Holden

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT); National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

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Date Written: July 1, 2008

Abstract

We analyze a model in which voters are uncertain about the policy preferences of candidates. Two forces affect the probability of electoral success: proximity to the median voter and campaign contributions. First, we show how campaign contributions affect elections. Then we show how the candidates may wish to announce a range of policy preferences, rather than a single point. This strategic ambiguity balances voter beliefs about the appeal of candidates both to the median voter and to the campaign contributors. If primaries precede a general election, they add another incentive for ambiguity, because in the primaries the candidates do not want to reveal too much information, to maintain some freedom of movement in the policy space for the general election. Ambiguity has an option value.

Keywords: Elections, polarization of platforms, ambiguity, primaries

Suggested Citation

Alesina, Alberto F. and Holden, Richard, Ambiguity and Extremism in Elections (July 1, 2008). Harvard Institute of Economic Research Discussion Paper No. 2157. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1154100 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.1154100

Alberto F. Alesina

Harvard University - Department of Economics ( email )

Littauer Center
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States
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Centre for Economic Policy Research (CEPR)

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National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

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Richard Holden

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) ( email )

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Cambridge, MA 02142
United States

National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) ( email )

1050 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

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