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The Spin Doctor Meets the Rational Voter: Electoral Competition with Agenda-Setting Effects

33 Pages Posted: 25 Aug 2004  

Riccardo Puglisi

University of Pavia; University of Milan - Centro Studi Luca d'Agliano (LdA)

Date Written: August 24, 2004

Abstract

In a multidimensional policy space, citizens cast their vote on the basis of which policy issue they reckon as being more salient. An issue becomes salient if it is known that problems related to it have occurred, which deserve some policy action by the elected politician. Newspapers and TV news broadcasts provide pieces of news about which problems have taken place, but there is a limited amount of available space on each of them, so that an excluding choice must be made.

I develop a simple model of electoral competition with agenda-setting effects. In a two-issue, one-newspaper environment, I define as spin the ability of the incumbent politician to make the story about the favorite issue sexier, so that it is published for sure, at the expense of the story about the other issue.

As a function of the presence or lack of spin, the model offers testable predictions about the kind of news being published during the campaign, and the effects thereof on the electoral outcome. Moreover, the paper discusses the circumstances under which it would be ex ante optimal for the incumbent politician to commit not to engage himself in spin activity. This is true when the electorate is ideologically polarised.

Keywords: News, media, elections, agenda setting, issue ownership

JEL Classification: D72, D78, L82

Suggested Citation

Puglisi, Riccardo, The Spin Doctor Meets the Rational Voter: Electoral Competition with Agenda-Setting Effects (August 24, 2004). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=581881 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.581881

Riccardo Puglisi (Contact Author)

University of Pavia ( email )

Corso Strada Nuova, 65
27100 Pavia, 27100
Italy

University of Milan - Centro Studi Luca d'Agliano (LdA) ( email )

Via P. Amedeo 34
Milano, Mi 20122
Italy

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