Ferejohn (1986) - Incumbent Performance And Electoral Control

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Ferejohn, J. (1986), Incumbent Performance and Electoral Control, Public Choice 50(1-3), 5-25. pdf


In the pure theory of electoral competition, citizens compare the platforms of the candidates and vote for the one whose platform is preferred. Candidate strategies are identified with promises about future performance in office. Models of this sort have been developed in both static [McKelvey (1975)] and dynamic [Kramer (1977) settings, and all appear to have the property that if the set of alternatives is "large enough" in some sense, equilibrium platforms rarely exist. But these models have another feature that is quite as disturbing as their instability.


This is similar to the Barro (1973) model, except that in each time period the voter has a parameter [math]\theta[/math]. In the full information case, the voters can see [math]\theta[/math] and in subsequent (asymmetric information) sections the voter cannot.

In the full information case, the politician is able to steal lots if [math]\theta[/math] is high, and less if it is low.

Is voter worse off relative to when he could observe [math]\theta[/math]? Turns out: Politician is able to steal more when state is unobservable.

Implication: voters would be ready to pay to have a journalist broadcasting information on [math]\theta[/math]. Politician would pay to shut journalist up.

Perhaps this model could serve to investigate the role of freedom of speech and media involvement in political life?