Candidate Entry and Political Polarization: An Antimedian Voter Theorem

Authors

  • Jens Großer,

    Corresponding author
    1. Florida State University and Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton
    • Jens Großer, Florida State University and Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton,

      Thomas R. Palfrey, California Institute of Technology,

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  • Thomas R. Palfrey

    Corresponding author
    1. California Institute of Technology
    • Jens Großer, Florida State University and Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton,

      Thomas R. Palfrey, California Institute of Technology,

    Search for more papers by this author

  • We thank the National Science Foundation for research support (SES-0962802). We wish to thank Jon Eguia, our discussant at the 2010 Midwest Political Science Association meeting in Chicago, and Salvatore Nunnari, who offered helpful suggestions on earlier drafts. The article has benefited from comments by the referees and the editor. We also are grateful for comments and suggestions from participants of the 2008 BBVA conference on the Political Economy of Democracy at Universitat Autónoma de Barcelona, where we first presented an early, incomplete draft of this article. A short version of that draft, without any proofs, appeared in a collection of the papers presented at the conference.

Abstract

We study a citizen-candidate-entry model with private information about ideal points. We fully characterize the unique symmetric equilibrium of the entry game and show that only relatively “extreme” citizen types enter the electoral competition as candidates, whereas more “moderate” types never enter. It generally leads to substantial political polarization, even when the electorate is not polarized and citizens understand that they vote for more extreme candidates. We show that polarization increases in the costs of entry and decreases in the benefits from holding office. Moreover, when the number of citizens goes to infinity, only the very most extreme citizens, with ideal points at the boundary of the policy space, become candidates. Finally, our polarization result is robust to changes in the implementation of a default policy if no citizen runs for office and to introducing directional information about candidates’ types that is revealed via parties.

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