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Published August 2, 2017 | Submitted
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The Effect of Candidate Quality on Electoral Equilibrium: An Experimental Study


When two candidates of different quality compete in a one dimensional policy space, the equilibrium outcomes are asymmetric and do not correspond to the median. There are three main effects. First, the better candidate adopts more centrist policies than the worse candidate. Second, the equilibrium is statistical, in the sense that it predicts a probability distribution of outcomes rather than a single degenerate outcome. Third, the equilibrium varies systematically with the level of uncertainty about the location of the median voter. We test these three predictions using laboratory experiments, and find strong support for all three. We also observe some biases and show that they can be explained by quantal response equilibrium.

Additional Information

Aragones acknowledges financial support from the Spanish Ministry of Science and Technology, grant number SEC2000-1186. Palfrey acknowledges financial support from the National Science Foundation, grant number SES-0079301, and from the Hacker Social Science Experimental Laboratory at Caltech. The paper has also benefitted from suggestions by audiences at Caltech, Columbia University, Princeton University, ITAM, GREQAM, the 2001 meeting of the American Political Science Association, University of Malaga, and Universitat Pompeu Fabra. Published as Aragones, Enriqueta and Palfrey, Thomas R. (2004) The effect of candidate quality on electoral equilibrium: An experimental study. American Political Science Review, 98(1). pp. 77-90.

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