Credibility and backlash

61 Pages Posted: 18 Feb 2021

See all articles by David Foster

David Foster

University of California, Berkeley - Charles and Louise Travers Department of Political Science

Date Written: January 21, 2021

Abstract

Recent politics has been characterized by politicians' harsh anti-immigration appeals and backlash against immigrants. I present a novel explanation for this backlash that hinges on politicians' ability to make such appeals credible. The starting point is a cheap talk model in which a politician (sender) is aligned with one of two opposed groups (receivers) and seeks to communicate her preferences to win support. Importantly, an increase in the weaker group's capacity may enable credible communication by the opposed type of politician, ironically making the weaker group worse-off. Illustrating the model, I discuss how Donald Trump credibly communicated alignment with anti-immigration groups in 2016 through harsh messaging against immigrants, whose power was increasing. More broadly, the model and case show how the behavior of strategic actors can underpin realignments, with shifts in relative group power proving crucial in enabling politicians to assemble novel political coalitions.

Keywords: formal model, immigration, backlash, cheap talk, campaign credibility

Suggested Citation

Foster, David, Credibility and backlash (January 21, 2021). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3785427

David Foster (Contact Author)

University of California, Berkeley - Charles and Louise Travers Department of Political Science ( email )

210 Barrows Hall
Berkeley, CA 94720
United States

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