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Published August 7, 2017 | Submitted
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Candidate Entry and Political Polarization: An Anti-Median Voter Theorem


We study a candidate entry model with private information about ideal points. We fully characterize the unique symmetric equilibrium of the entry game, and show that only relatively "extreme" citizen types enter the electoral competition as candidates, whereas more "moderate" types never enter. It generally leads to a substantial political polarization, even when the electorate is not polarized and citizens understand that they vote for more extreme candidates. Our results are robust with respect to changes in the implementation of a default policy if no citizen runs for office. We show that polarization increases in the costs of entry and the degree of risk aversion, and decreases in the benefits from holding office. Finally, we provide a simple limiting characterization pf the unique symmetric equilibrium when the number of citizens goes to infinity. In the limit, only the very most extreme citizens, with ideal points at the boundary of the policy space, become candidates.

Additional Information

We thank the National Science Foundation for research support (SES-0962802). We are grateful to Jon Eguia, or discussant at the 2010 Midwest Political Science Association meeting in Chicago, and Salvatore Nunnari who offered several helpful suggestions on the penultimate draft. We are also grateful for the comments and suggestions from participants in the BBVA conference on the Political Economy of Democracy at Universitat Autonoma de Barcelona in June 2008, where we first presented an incomplete draft with an example that eventually turned into this paper. A summary of that example, without any proofs, appears in a collection of papers presented at the conference (Gro├čer and Palfrey 2009)

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