Vote Buying and Campaign Promises

41 Pages Posted: 17 Jan 2016 Last revised: 3 Jul 2017

See all articles by Philip Keefer

Philip Keefer

Inter-American Development Bank

Razvan Vlaicu

Inter-American Development Bank; University of Maryland

Date Written: June 2017

Abstract

What explains the wide variation across countries in the use of vote buying and policy promises during election campaigns? We address this question, and account for a number of stylized facts and apparent anomalies regarding vote buying, using a model in which parties cannot fully commit to campaign promises. We find that high vote buying is associated with frequent reneging on campaign promises, strong electoral competition, and high policy rents. Frequent reneging and low party competence reduce campaign promises. If vote buying can be financed out of public resources, incumbents buy more votes and enjoy an electoral advantage, but they also promise more public goods. Vote buying has distributional consequences: voters targeted with vote buying pre-election may receive no government benefits post-election. The results point to obstacles to the democratic transition from clientelist to programmatic forms of electoral competition as parties may not benefit electorally from institutions that increase commitment.

Keywords: vote buying, campaign promises, credibility, rent seeking, incumbency

JEL Classification: D72, H20, H50, O10

Suggested Citation

Keefer, Philip and Vlaicu, Razvan, Vote Buying and Campaign Promises (June 2017). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2716533 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2716533

Philip Keefer

Inter-American Development Bank ( email )

1300 New York Ave., NW
Washington, DC 20577
United States
202-623-1961 (Phone)

Razvan Vlaicu (Contact Author)

Inter-American Development Bank ( email )

1300 New York Ave NW
Washington, DC 20577
United States

University of Maryland ( email )

3114 Tydings Hall
College Park, MD 20742
United States

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