Incentives or Disincentives?

Dan Alexander (University of Chicago, Harris School)

Abstract : When government seeks to induce a behavior among the population it governs, it may use either incentive policies to reward those that comply with the desired behavior or disincentive policies to punish those who do not comply. We ask which type of policy a majority of the population will prefer, and how it compares to the policy a social planner would choose. If the costs of administering a policy increase in the share of the population receiving the reward or punishment, then raising the size of a reward, which increases compliance, increases administrative costs. Raising the size of a punishment, which decreases noncompliance, lowers administrative costs. As such, using punishments (rather than rewards) is complementary to higher levels of compliance, with a majority tending to prefer larger punishments (and smaller rewards) than the social planner. We ground the results in a variety of policy-relevant examples, particularly questions in food policy.

Ideological Extremism and Primaries

Agustin Casas (CUNEF)

Abstract : This paper is the first one to present a “general equilibrium” model of primaries with endogenous party affiliations. I show that closed primaries (where only affiliated party members can vote) result in more charismatic candidates than in open primaries. That occurs because, in equilibrium, closed-primary voters care more about winning and therefore they are more willing to trade off their ideologically preferred candidate for one who is more likely to win, i.e., a more charismatic one. I also show that under open primaries, the party leaders have higher incentives to choose more extreme platforms. As a consequence, and in line with the most recent empirical evidence, open-primary nominees are more likely to be extremists than closed-primary ones. Finally, I show that, if instead of organizing primaries, party leaders were to handpick the nominees, the candidates would be even more moderate and more charismatic.

The Motivations of the French National Front Voters: a Behavioral Political Economy Approach

Francois facchini (University Paris Sorbonne)
Louis Jaeck (Unitd Arab Emirates University)

Abstract : The objective this paper is to explain the motivations of the French NF voters and to analyze how their political beliefs and attitudes spread out throughout the electoral body. Its methodological approach relies on two key theoretical framework: the first comes from the development of behavioral political economy, namely the theory of expressive voting (Hillman 2010), the second is driven by the theory of cognitive rationality (Boudon, 2003;2010) and the concept of justification costs (Facchini, 2016). We show that the growing support for the NF ideas among the French voters occurs because of a fall of the justification costs of their political beliefs. The latter results from two complement phenomenon. First, the number of people who share their views increases, and second because some facts may enhance the development of cognitively biased inference-making between immigration, unemployment and lack of security. Such erroneous causal relationship are widespread among the NF voters. Nonetheless, the NF views and ideas are costly to justify, essentially because social sciences and French moral authorities vigorously and frequently condemn specific arguments made by the party and its leaders.

Learn from Thy Neighbour: Do Voters Associate Corruption with Political Parties?

Arieda Muco (Stockholm School of Economics)

Abstract : This paper exploits a randomized audit program to document how information about a corrupt politician causes electoral spillovers on his party. I focus on two types of spillovers: spillovers across types of elections (cross-electoral spillovers) and spillovers across jurisdiction borders (cross-border spillovers). Using detailed data on radio antenna location and coverage, I identify neighboring areas in the same media market. Moreover, via machine learning and text-analysis tools, I take a data-driven approach to create an index that ranks municipalities according to their corruption level. I uncover how information about corruption shapes voting decisions through the structure and geography of the media market. I show that voters hold the party of the incumbent politician accountable in four distinct ways. In municipalities where corruption occurs, voters punish parties in (1) local and (2) national elections. Most importantly, I show that news of a politician's corruption affects his party in neighboring municipalities that share the same media market, and these spillovers affect both (3) local and (4) national elections. Ruling out other potential mechanisms, I show that these findings are consistent with electoral accountability.