Research

A Model of Electoral Competition With Factional Sabotage

I examine the interaction between party leadership and factions in a probabilistic model of electoral competition. Factions can devote their campaign resources to either promote the party or to undermine other factions. Before the election, leaders decide how to redistribute electoral spoils among factions. The model studies how the intra-party and inter-party competitive environment affect the occurrence of sabotage and the response of leaders via changes in party organizations. As electoral security and the electoral spoils granted to the losing party increase, the salience of the intra-party contest relative to the inter-party contest in the general election increases, as does equilibrium sabotage by factions. The party leadership averts sabotage by designing optimal incentive schemes that lead factions to internalize the cost of working against the party. The model helps to rationalize the occurrence of political scandals driven by intra-party sabotage, and the observed dispersion in party organizational structure.

Public Information: Relevance or Salience?

How does salient public information affect voters’ behavior? In a majoritarian voting game with common preferences, rational voters could use public information as an information device (depending on accuracy) or as a coordination device (regardless of accuracy). A simple lab experiment contradicts both hypotheses: subjects tend to follow public information when it is salient, regardless of the information’s accuracy, but fail to use it as a source of coordination. In particular, it matters whether the information is recent: subjects are more likely to follow public information when it is provided closer to the voting decision. These findings are important because the salience of public information is easily manipulable by political actors.

Tra i Leoni: Revealing the Preferences Behind a Superstition
(with J.B. Miller, T. Coen, M. Dufwenberg and L. Oliveira)

We investigate a superstition for which adherence is nearly universal. Using a combination of field interventions and a lab-style value elicitation, we investigate the strength of peoples’ underlying preferences, and to what extent their behavior is driven by social conformity rather than the superstition itself. Our findings indicate that both mechanisms influence behavior. While a substantial number of people are willing to incur a relatively high individual cost in order to adhere to the superstition, for many, adherence is contingent on the the behavior of others. Our findings suggest that it is the conforming nature of the majority that sustains the false beliefs of the minority.