Why Not Run? Assessing Disincentives to Office-Seeking
24 Pages Posted: 20 Apr 2018
Date Written: April 4, 2018
There is a longstanding concern in American politics about the limited pool of qualified candidates who seek higher elected office. Studying the micro-level entry decisions of potential candidates with observational data is difficult because of confounding, selection bias, and equilibrium effects. To disentangle the relative importance of existing explanations for the problem of low candidate entry, we conduct a conjoint experiment using a novel survey panel of local elected officials -- a common source of potential candidates for higher office -- to disentangle the relative importance of existing explanations for the problem of low candidate entry. We find that fundraising and negative campaigns are both large deterrents to seeking higher office. While potential candidates are more interested in running for offices when they receive larger salaries, this effect is not very large. We find some evidence of scare-off, and no evidence that potential candidates are responsive to would-be opponents' policy preferences when making entry decisions.
Keywords: campaign finance, candidate entry, elite surveys, local government, state government
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