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Electoral Ambiguity and Political Representation

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We introduce a Downsian model in which policy‐relevant information is revealed to the elected politician after the election. The electorate benefits from giving the elected politician discretion to adapt policies to his information. But limits on discretion are desirable when politicians do not share the electorate's policy preferences. Optimal political representation generally consists of a mixture of the delegate (no discretion) and trustee (full discretion) models. Ambiguous electoral platforms are essential for achieving beneficial representation. Nevertheless, electoral competition does not ensure optimal representation: The winning candidate's platform is generally overly ambiguous. While our theory rationalizes a positive correlation between ambiguity and electoral success, it shows that the relationship need not be causal.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: October 1, 2017

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