, Volume 6, Issue 3, pp 227-241

Promising politicians, rational voters, and election outcomes

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Overwhelming anecdotal evidence suggests that politicians often promise more during an election campaign than they are willing or able to deliver once elected. In this paper, we present two signaling models to explain this phenomenon. In the first model, two candidates maximize their share of the vote. In the second model both try to convince the median voter. In each model, candidates rationally distort their true policy position. Voters, however, are not fooled. Upon observing election promises, they can rationally infer the true position of each candidate. Hence, the election outcome is not affected.

JEL Classification:

D72, D82

The author thanks Peter Kooreman, Wilko Letterie, Bert Schoonbeek, and two anonymous referees for useful comments. Financial support from The Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research (NWO) is gratefully acknowledged.