Electoral Competition Through Issue Selection

36 Pages Posted: 28 Sep 2012

See all articles by Enriqueta Aragones

Enriqueta Aragones

Spanish Council for Scientific Research (CSIC) - Insitute for Economic Analysis

Micael Castanheira

Université Libre de Bruxelles (ULB) - European Center for Advanced Research in Economics and Statistics (ECARES); Centre for Economic Policy Research (CEPR)

Marco Giani

affiliation not provided to SSRN

Date Written: June 2012

Abstract

Politics must tackle multiple issues at once. In a first-best world, political competition constrains parties to prioritize issues according to the voters' true concerns. In the real world, the opposite also happens: parties manipulate voter priorities by emphasizing issues selectively during the political campaign. This phenomenon, known as priming, should allow parties to pay less attention to the issues that they intend to mute.

We develop a model of endogenous issue ownership in which two vote-seeking parties (i) invest to attract voters with "better" policy proposals and (ii) choose a communication campaign to focus voter attention on specific issues. We identify novel feedbacks between communication and investment. In particular, we find that stronger priming effects can backfire by constraining parties to invest more resources in all issues, including the ones they would otherwise intend to mute. We also identify under which conditions parties prefer to focus on their "historical issues" or to engage in issue stealing. Typically, the latter happens when priming effects are strong, and historical reputations differentiates parties less.

Keywords: Electoral competition, issue selection and ownership, party strategy, priming, salience

JEL Classification: D72, H11

Suggested Citation

Aragonés, Enriqueta and Castanheira, Micael and Giani, Marco, Electoral Competition Through Issue Selection (June 2012). CEPR Discussion Paper No. DP9012, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2153444

Enriqueta Aragonés (Contact Author)

Spanish Council for Scientific Research (CSIC) - Insitute for Economic Analysis ( email )

08193 Bellaterra
Spain
34-93-580-6612 (Phone)
34-93-580-1452 (Fax)

Micael Castanheira

Université Libre de Bruxelles (ULB) - European Center for Advanced Research in Economics and Statistics (ECARES) ( email )

Ave. Franklin D Roosevelt, 50 - C.P. 114
Brussels, B-1050
Belgium
+32 2 650 4467 (Phone)
+32 2 650 3369 (Fax)

Centre for Economic Policy Research (CEPR)

London
United Kingdom

Marco Giani

affiliation not provided to SSRN ( email )

No Address Available

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