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Elections with platform and valence competition

By Scott Ashworth and Ethan Bueno de Mesquita


We study a game in which candidates first choose platforms and then invest in costly valences (e.g., engage in campaign spending). The marginal return to valence depends on platform polarization--the closer platforms are, the more valence affects the election outcome. Consequently, candidates without policy preferences choose divergent platforms to soften valence competition. Moreover, exogenous increases in incentives for valence accumulation lead to both increased valence and increased polarization--the latter because candidates seek to avoid the costs of extra valence. As a result, the increase in valence is smaller than it would have been with exogenous platforms. Finally, the model highlights the overlooked substantive importance of common modeling assumptions. Changing the source of uncertainty in our model from noise around the median voter's ideal point to a shock to one candidate's valence (as is common in the literature) leads to complete platform convergence for all parameter values.

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