Matching Pennies on the Campaign Trail: An Empirical Study of Senate Elections and Media Coverage

55 Pages Posted: 18 Jun 2015 Last revised: 20 Jun 2015

See all articles by Camilo Garcia-Jimeno

Camilo Garcia-Jimeno

University of Pennsylvania - Department of Economics

Pinar Yildirim

University of Pennsylvania - The Wharton School

Multiple version iconThere are 2 versions of this paper

Date Written: April 3, 2015

Abstract

We study empirically the strategic interaction between the media and candidates in a bipartisan election. We suggest that the relationship between the media and candidates in a campaign is shaped by both a dimension of alignment of preferences, and a dimension of misalignment, which leads to a strategic environment resembling a matching pennies game. As a result, making inferences about politicians’ ideologies or policy stances based on media reports is not possible without taking explicit account of how each player’s behavior affects the other. Based on this observation we develop a simple structural model of bipartisan races where the media makes reports about the candidates, and candidates make decisions along the campaign trail regarding the type of constituencies to target with their statements and speeches. We show how data on media reports, electoral results, and poll results, together with the behavioral implications of the model, can be used to estimate its structural parameters. We implement this methodology on US Senatorial races for the period 1980-2012. These parameters are useful, among other things, to predict the evolution of races during the campaign trail, and to understand the forces shaping candidates speech during campaigns. Moreover, our results suggest a novel interpretation for how the media constrains politicians’ behavior in an democracy.

Keywords: political campaigns, senate elections, media, campaign speeches

Suggested Citation

Garcia-Jimeno, Camilo and Yildirim, Pinar, Matching Pennies on the Campaign Trail: An Empirical Study of Senate Elections and Media Coverage (April 3, 2015). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2619439 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2619439

Camilo Garcia-Jimeno

University of Pennsylvania - Department of Economics ( email )

Ronald O. Perelman Center for Political Science
133 South 36th Street
Philadelphia, PA 19104-6297
United States

Pinar Yildirim (Contact Author)

University of Pennsylvania - The Wharton School ( email )

3641 Locust Walk
Philadelphia, PA 19104-6365
United States

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