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LE PENNEC Caroline (HEC Montreal) – ” Keep your Enemies Closer: Strategic Candidate Adjustments in U.S. and French Elections “
Applied Micro Seminar : Every Tuesday
Time: 12:15 pm – 13:30 pm
Date: 25th of April
Room : 3001
Caroline LE PENNEC – Keep your Enemies Closer: Strategic Candidate Adjustments in U.S. and French Elections Keep your Enemies Closer: Strategic Candidate Adjustments in U.S. and French Elections
A key tenet of representative democracy is that politicians should adjust their discourse and policies to the voters who elect them. The Median Voter Theorem (MVT) predicts that, if candidates are fully strategic, they will adjust to their opponent’s platform until converging to the median voter. Despite its importance in political economy, we lack direct rigorous tests of the convergence mechanism underlying the MVT. In this paper, we provide direct evidence that candidates adjust their discourse toward their competitors, and that they converge to each other in ideological tone and rhetorical complexity. We collect the content of 9,000 candidate websites before a primary or general election for the U.S. House of Representatives between 2002 and 2016 as well as 57,000 campaign manifestos issued by candidates running in the first or second round of the French parliamentary and local elections between 1958 and 2022. We first show that, as their electorate broadens, candidates running in both election stages tend to converge to the center of the ideology or complexity scales, and to diversify the set of topics they focus on, in the second stage. Second, we exploit cases in which the identity of candidates qualified for the second round is quasi-random, by focusing on elections in which candidates narrowly won their primary (in the U.S.) or narrowly qualified for the runoff (in France). Using a regression discontinuity design, we find that second-round candidates converge to the platform of their actual opponent, as compared to the platform of the runner-up who did not qualify for the last round. Our findings suggest that politicians are strategic and that, even though they do not fully converge to the median voter, the convergence mechanism underlying this prediction is real.
Joint work with : Rafael Di Tella, Randy Kotti and Vincent Pons
Benoît SCHMUTZ (Pôle d’économie du CREST)
Roland RATHELOT (Pôle d’économie du CREST)