Do Polls Create Momentum in Political Competition?
68 Pages Posted: 2 May 2013 Last revised: 15 Oct 2013
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: Suggested Citation