Rally The Vote: Electoral Competition With Direct Campaign Communication (Job Market Paper)
Abstract | Paper
Political rallies have formed a large part of U.S. electoral campaigns since the 19th century and remain relevant today. This paper models candidates' rally decisions as an empirical dynamic game of electoral competition and applies it to estimate rally effectiveness for the 2012 and 2016 U.S. presidential elections. The model supports three empirically observed patterns, such as candidates concentrating rallies in states with neck and neck competition as election approaches. Estimates uncover that rallies by presidential candidates were effective in increasing their poll margins and these effects remain significant across multiple robustness tests. The estimates also reveal that a rally by a presidential candidate is more persuasive than a television ad. I construct and execute model selection tests that infer whether candidates are strategic and forward-looking to validate model assumptions. Counterfactual exercises show that Trump’s rallies were electorally pivotal, while rallies by other candidates had no effect on their chances of winning. The effects of short-term campaign silences (i.e. forbidding political campaigning) are limited since candidates can gain sufficient support from the electorate before they begin.
Presentations/Awards: Econometric Society Summer School in Dynamic Structural Econometrics (accepted), Applied Young Economist Webinar 2022, Euroasian Business and Economic Society 2022, Third Runner Up (out of 214 papers) at EBES 2022, C.D.E Delhi School of Economics and The Econometric Society Meeting (accepted), New York State Economic Association 2022 (accepted)
Abstract | Paper
While studying government formation in parliamentary democracies, researchers have always assumed that political parties possess identical preferences over government portfolios. This has led us to rely on games that work under the assumption that there is "one pie", and every coalition member wants it! In this paper, I show that this is not the case in the context of the Western European Parliaments from 1965-2018. First, I document novel patterns that show right party politicians were more likely to be a Minister of Defense, Minister of Agriculture, Minister of Justice, and Prime Minister. At the same time, the left was more likely to be allocated to Labor, Environment, Health, Science and Technology, Education, and Transport departments. These patterns indicate a horizontal differentiation of government portfolios by the political parties. Traditional bargaining models do not possess the flexibility that allows for heterogenous preferences of parties. Therefore I deviate and model this strategic interaction as a Colonel-Blotto game. The model provides me with a prediction about "who gets what?'' I exploit this and uncover party preferences over government portfolios as a function of party ideology. I conduct counterfactual experiments that uncover the proportion of allocations that can be explained by heterogeneous preferences and the loss in surplus caused by strategic interactions.
Abstract | Paper
The paper constructs a model of dynamic electoral competition where politicians compete against each other to stay popular on election day. The model possesses a finite time horizon with a perfect information structure which results in a unique equilibrium--- a contribution in itself. An extensive simulation study is conducted to understand the model's comparative statics, which provides essential intuition that can be used to explain the dynamics of campaign strategy used in practice. The model is applied to the 2019 Indian General Election to test how fairly it performs. This paper also provides one of the first examinations of Modi rallies that helps us to get a sense of how effective Modi rallies were in the 2019 Indian General Elections.
Work In Progress
The goal of this project is to study the demand-side factors that affect voting for female candidates in Brazil. Most standard voting models assume that voters evaluate candidates along several dimensions when deciding for whom to vote. These dimensions often include the candidate’s Gender, their perceived Ability, and their Policy positions, (GAP). Based on these three dimensions, we have developed a structural model to decouple their effects on voting decisions. Importantly, our framework can separately identify the roles of preferences versus beliefs of individual voters in this multidimensional decision. To estimate our model, we have designed a randomized control trial (RCT) that exploits a social media app's capabilities to micro-target individual voters with messages in the form of ads. Our experiment will consist of several gender-specific treatments that will vary in their level of informativeness. This distinction in informativeness across messages is key for not only isolating changes in salience and beliefs about a particular candidate’s dimension (e.g., gender, ability, and policy), but it will also allow us to recover any learning effects on the voter side without relying on survey-based methods. We will run our experiment in the weeks just prior to this year’s October elections in Brazil, at a geographical scale sufficiently large to detect effects on aggregate vote shares. A key empirical contribution of this work will be its ability to disentangle which dimensions matter the most for voters when choosing a candidate and how gender (both of the candidate and of the voter) plays a role in this choice. Campaigns to promote gender representation require a clear understanding of the roots of underrepresentation to be effective.
The Distortionary Effect of Third Party Advertising in the U.S. Congressional Elections
I study the loss of more able but less funded politicians due to high levels of advertising by political parties and outside groups for the case of the U.S. congressional elections. The U.S. general elections periodically observe enormous spending on T.V. ads sponsored by politicians, political parties, and outside groups. In such a scenario, upcoming politicians are forced to compete against the significant advertising levels by opposing parties and outside groups. These advertising levels by outside groups and political parties act as a barrier to entry for politicians, limiting who can contest the election. Moreover, these can result in the adverse selection of low-ability but strongly funded politicians. In this project, I plan to estimate the counterfactual ability distribution of politicians in the absence of advertising by parties and outside groups. Comparing the observed level of ability distribution and the counterfactual ability distribution can help us pin down the loss of able politicians. These estimates will be helpful for recommending policy interventions such as spending caps or complete to a partial ban on T.V. ads by parties and outside groups.