Distributive Politics with Vote and Turnout Buying

Distributive Politics with Vote and Turnout Buying

by Agustin Casas, Colegio Universitario de Estudios Financieros 

I model the incumbent’s allocation of efforts that maximize re-election chances in the presence of vote buying (persuasion) and turnout buying (mobilization). The existing literature on distributive politics concludes that political candidates should concentrate their campaigning efforts either on safe districts or on swing districts. This paper shows that when candidates can use both persuasion and mobilization strategies, and the ideology of voters is unknown to the incumbent, a third option should be considered. The optimal allocation of resources – rather than focusing on safe or swing districts – should target opposition strongholds, i.e. the incumbent should try to sway voters in those districts in which the challenger is favored. The intuition for this result is simple. Since the incumbent does not know individual preferences (he only observes the distribution of preferences in the districts), all voters in a given district look identical to him. Hence, when approaching voters in a district to buy their vote, the incumbent always faces the risk of buying the vote of his supporters (who would have voted for him anyway). As a result, he persuades and/or mobilizes loyalists who would not have voted and citizens who would have preferred the opposition party, without the incumbent’s efforts.

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American Political Science Review / Volume 112 / Issue 4 / November 2018

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