Scandinavian Working Papers in Economics

Seminar Papers,
Stockholm University, Institute for International Economic Studies

No 655: On the Role of Public Opinion Polls in Political Competition

Thomas TangerĂ¥s ()
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Thomas TangerĂ¥s: The Research Institute of Industrial Economics, IUI, Postal: Industriens Utredningsinstitut, Box 5501, SE-11485 Stockholm, Sweden

Abstract: This paper presents a model of strategic positioning during an election campaign in which candidates use results from opinion polls to extract information about voter preferences. It is shown that the distance between policy announcements decreases over the course of the campaign: candidates announce initial policies at either extreme of the political spectrum and commit to moderate final policies. An "underdog" effect arises: the difference in candidate popularity decreases as the campaign evolves. A puplic opinion poll constitutes a Pareto improvement if final policies are expected to become more moderate after the introduction of the poll.

Keywords: Opinion Polls; Election Campaigns; Underdog Effect; Welfare

JEL-codes: D72

42 pages, October 19, 1998

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