Research

A Model of Electoral Competition With Factional Sabotage

Intra-party sabotage is widespread and detrimental to political parties. This paper examines the interaction between party leadership and factions in a probabilistic model of elections, where the occurrence of sabotage is driven by both intra-party and inter-party competition. Factions can devote their campaign resources to either promote the party or to undermine other factions. Leaders decide how to redistribute electoral spoils among factions in form of prizes, based on an imperfect indicator of factions’ resource allocation. Results show that, as electoral security and proportionality of the institutional setting increase, inter-party competition becomes less salient and in equilibrium factions invest more resources in sabotaging each other when sabotage helps to win the prize set by the leader. Anticipating these incentives, the leadership chooses prizes that lead factions to internalize the cost of working against the party. The model helps to rationalize the occurrence of corruption 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.

Power Sharing, Mobilization and Party Organization
(with Carlo Prato)

We study the internal organization of political parties as the solution of a moral hazard problem between a party principal (or selectorate) and two factions. Factional mobilization effort bolster a party’s electoral chances but can only be imperfectly monitored—via an internal contest. We model a party’s internal organization as a system of “prizes”, an allocation of resources between winner and loser of the internal contest. We show that when (i) a party’s baseline electoral strength is low and (ii) electoral outcomes are not too responsive to mobilization efforts (e.g., when the electorate is polarized), there is an inverse relationship between inter-party power sharing and intra-party power sharing: when election winners keep most of the power, parties should allocate power across factions in a more egalitarian matter. Otherwise, party organization resembles a winner-take-all competition between factions. Our results help organize the empirically documented dispersion in party organizational structures (leadership autonomy, centralization of candidate selection, and the formal recognition of factions in the party statute).