NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH
NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH
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Eric Arias

Department of Government
College of William & Mary
P.O. Box 8795
Williamsburg, VA 23187

E-Mail: EmailAddress: hidden: you can email any NBER-related person as first underscore last at nber dot org
Institutional Affiliation: College of William and Mary

NBER Working Papers and Publications

August 2018Priors rule: When do Malfeasance Revelations Help or Hurt Incumbent Parties?
with Horacio Larreguy, John Marshall, Pablo Querubín: w24888
Effective policy-making requires that voters avoid electing malfeasant politicians. However, as our simple learning model emphasizing voters’ prior beliefs and updating highlights, informing voters of incumbent malfeasance may not entail sanctioning. Specifically, electoral punishment of incumbents revealed to be malfeasant is rare where voters already believed them to be malfeasant, while information’s effect on turnout is non-linear in the magnitude of revealed malfeasance. These Bayesian predictions are supported by a field experiment informing Mexican voters about malfeasant mayoral spending before municipal elections. Given voters’ low expectations and initial uncertainty, as well as politician responses, relatively severe malfeasance revelations increased incumbent vote share on ave...
 
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