Signalling, Incumbency Advantage, and Optimal Reelection Thresholds

32 Pages Posted: 1 Mar 2012

See all articles by Francesco Caselli

Francesco Caselli

London School of Economics & Political Science (LSE) - Department of Economics; Centre for Economic Policy Research (CEPR); National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

Tom Cunningham

Harvard University

Massimo Morelli

Bocconi University

Inés Moreno de Barreda

University of Oxford

Multiple version iconThere are 2 versions of this paper

Date Written: February 2012

Abstract

Much literature on political behavior treats politicians as motivated by reelection, choosing actions to signal their types to voters. We identify two novel implications of models in which signalling incentives are important. First, because incumbents only care about clearing a reelection hurdle, signals will tend to cluster just above the threshold needed for reelection. This generates a skew distribution of signals leading to an incumbency advantage in the probability of election. Second, voters can exploit the signalling behavior of politicians by precommitting to a higher threshold for signals received. Raising the threshold discourages signalling effort by low quality politicians but encourages effort by high quality politicians, thus increasing the separation of signals and improving the selection function of an election. This precommitment has a simple institutional interpretation as a supermajority rule, requiring that incumbents exceed some fraction of votes greater than 50% to be reelected. A simple calibration suggests the average quality of US Congress members would be maximised by requiring a 57% vote share for reelection.

Keywords: Incumbency Advantage, Signalling, Sipermajority

JEL Classification: D72, D78, D82

Suggested Citation

Caselli, Francesco and Cunningham, Tom and Morelli, Massimo and Moreno de Barreda, Inés, Signalling, Incumbency Advantage, and Optimal Reelection Thresholds (February 2012). CEPR Discussion Paper No. DP8832. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2013823

Francesco Caselli (Contact Author)

London School of Economics & Political Science (LSE) - Department of Economics ( email )

Houghton Street
London WC2A 2AE
United Kingdom

Centre for Economic Policy Research (CEPR)

London
United Kingdom

National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

1050 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

Tom Cunningham

Harvard University ( email )

1875 Cambridge Street
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

Massimo Morelli

Bocconi University ( email )

Via Roentgen 1
Milan, 20136
Italy

Inés Moreno de Barreda

University of Oxford ( email )

Mansfield Road
Oxford, Oxfordshire OX1 4AU
United Kingdom

Register to save articles to
your library

Register

Paper statistics

Downloads
0
Abstract Views
387
PlumX Metrics