Do Polls Create Momentum in Political Competition?

68 Pages Posted: 2 May 2013 Last revised: 15 Oct 2013

See all articles by Philipp Denter

Philipp Denter

Universidad Carlos III de Madrid

Dana Sisak

Erasmus University Rotterdam (EUR) - Department of Economics; Tinbergen Institute

Multiple version iconThere are 2 versions of this paper

Date Written: October 13, 2013


We explore how public opinion polls affect candidates' campaign spending in political competition. Generally, polls lead to asymmetric behavior. Under a majority rule there always exists an equilibrium in which the initially more popular candidate invests more in the campaign and thereby increases his lead in expectation: polls create momentum. When campaigning is very effective and the race is very close, a second type of equilibrium may exist: the trailing candidate outspends and overtakes his opponent. Regardless of the type of equilibrium, polls have a tendency to decrease expected total campaigning expenditures by amplifying ex-ante asymmetries between candidates and thus defusing competition. When candidates care also for their vote share in addition to having the majority, candidates' incentives crucially depend on the distribution of voters' candidate preferences.

Keywords: polls, political campaigns, feedback, momentum

JEL Classification: D02, D72, D74, D83

Suggested Citation

Denter, Philipp and Sisak, Dana, Do Polls Create Momentum in Political Competition? (October 13, 2013). EPSA 2013 Annual General Conference Paper 230. Available at SSRN:

Philipp Denter

Universidad Carlos III de Madrid ( email )

CL. de Madrid 126
Madrid, Madrid 28903

Dana Sisak (Contact Author)

Erasmus University Rotterdam (EUR) - Department of Economics ( email )

P.O. Box 1738
3000 DR Rotterdam

Tinbergen Institute ( email )

Burg. Oudlaan 50
Rotterdam, 3062 PA

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