(Not) Addressing Issues in Electoral Campaigns

Open Access       

Authors: Salvador Barberà and Anke Gerber

Journal of Theoretical Politics, Vol. 35, No 4, 259–291, September, 2023

Two candidates competing for election may raise some issues for debate during the electoral campaign, while avoiding others. We present a model in which the decision to introduce an issue, or to reply to the opponent’s position on one that she raised, may change the further list of topics that end up being discussed. Candidates’ strategic decisions are driven by their appraisal of their expected vote share at the end of the campaign. Real phenomena observed during campaigns, like the convergence of the parties to address the same issues, or else their diverging choice on which ones to treat, or the relevance of issue ownership can be explained within our stark basic model. Most importantly, our analysis is based on a novel concept of equilibrium that avoids the (often arbitrary) use of predetermined protocols. This allows us to endogenously predict not only the list of topics that will be touched upon by each candidate, but also the order in which they will be addressed.

This paper originally appeared as Barcelona School of Economics Working Paper 1353