Leticia Abad, Noel Maurer, 19 February 2021

While the COVID-19 pandemic seemed to have affected the 2020 US presidential elections, it had remarkably little effect on the electoral returns. This column compares the situation to the 1918 influenza pandemic and examines whether the flu pandemic affected US congressional, gubernatorial, and presidential elections during 1918–1920. Flu deaths did have a small effect on elections – voters did indeed blame incumbent parties for bad health outcomes. However, it appears they cared about other things much more.

Scott Baker, Aniket Baksy, Nicholas Bloom, Steven Davis, Jonathan Rodden, 22 December 2020

Elections can cause economic uncertainty, especially when elections take place in a politically polarised context. This column studies how national election cycles in 23 countries influence economic policy uncertainty, as measured by the share of newspaper articles that discusses uncertainty and economic policy. Economic policy uncertainty clearly rises in the months leading up to national elections. Average economic policy uncertainty values are 13% higher in the month before and the month of national elections than in other months during the same election cycle. In the US, economic policy uncertainty increases are especially pronounced around close and highly polarised presidential elections. 

James Snyder, Hasin Yousaf, 28 November 2020

Holding large rallies is an especially important campaign activity for many populist leaders, including for Donald Trump during the 2016 US presidential race. This column studies the effect of campaign rallies held by Democratic and Republican US presidential candidates since 2008, including Donald Trump. It explores the effect of rallies on citizens’ preferences over candidates, policy issues, and their intention to vote. Populist leaders may be particularly effective in gaining support via their campaign rallies, at least temporarily. Populist leaders’ success may depend on connecting with voters via rallies.

Orkun Saka, Yuemei Ji, Paul De Grauwe, 13 November 2020

Financial crises invariably lead governments to intervene in one way or another, whether to ease the damage to middle-class voters, to respond to the anti-finance sentiment, or to introduce new policies favouring the financial industry. This column traces policy interventions back to policymakers’ incentives. Financial crises lead governments to re-regulate financial markets only in democratic settings. Politicians who are facing a term limit are substantially more likely to re-regulate financial markets after crises in ways compatible with their private incentives. These privately motivated interventions operate via controversial policy domains and favour incumbent banks in countries with more revolving doors between political and financial institutions.

Rabah Arezki, Simeon Djankov, Ha Nguyen, Ivan Yotzov, 30 October 2020

Voter behaviour is often said to be determined by self-interest and ideology, but empirical support for the role of ideology is mixed. There is, however, evidence that exogenous shocks can negatively affect incumbents’ electoral fortunes. This column explores the effect of oil shocks on electoral outcomes, using a new polling and election data set for 207 elections across 50 democracies. Oil price increases one year before an election systematically lower the odds of incumbents being re-elected. The winning parties are more likely to belong to the opposite end of the political spectrum from the incumbent.

Giovanni Facchini, Brian Knight, Cecilia Testa, 07 July 2020

The disproportionate arrest rates of black Americans is well established, but the relationship between racist police practices and political accountability is not. This column examines whether black voter turnout – which soared following the Voting Rights Act of 1965 – affected police departments in the southern US. It finds that an historically oppressed minority’s enfranchisement can lead to their improved treatment by police, but only when the chief law enforcement officers in a district are elected rather than appointed. While historical in nature, the findings have significant policy implications given ongoing debates about policing, race, and voting.

Jean Benoit Eymeoud, Paul Vertier, 22 May 2020

While decades of research have investigated the reasons behind the underrepresentation of women in politics, uncovering discriminatory behaviours of voters remains a difficult task. This column examines the voting outcomes of French departmental elections in 2015, which required candidates to run in mixed-gender pairs, and isolates discriminatory behaviour of right-wing voters. Right-wing parties lost votes when the woman’s name appeared first on the ballot. However, the discriminatory effect disappears where information about the candidates is available on the ballot.

Emeric Henry, Ekaterina Zhuravskaya, Sergei Guriev, 21 May 2020

The most recent manifestations of populism owe a portion of their rise to social media and the unfettered spread of false and misleading narratives or, as they are sometimes called, ‘alternative facts’. This column makes use of an online experiment conducted among Facebook users in France during the 2019 European Parliament elections to show that fact-checking can staunch the flow of false information, as can the imposition of small costs such as requiring an additional click to confirm a user’s willingness to share news.

Francesco Drago, Roberto Galbiati, Francesco Sobbrio, 24 December 2019

Assessing how voters respond to public policies they like or dislike is challenging due to the absence of counterfactual scenarios. This column exploits a collective pardon of prisoners in response to prison overcrowding in Italy in 2006 to show that voters punish incumbent politicians for unpopular policies they are deemed responsible for. Regions with greater incidents of recidivism were those where incumbent politicians fared more poorly in post-pardon elections.

Mariella Gonzales, Gianmarco León-Ciliotta, Luis R. Martinez, 23 September 2019

To counter the worldwide fall in electoral participation over the last 30 years, some governments have introduced compulsory voting, with ten countries currently punishing abstainers with a fine. This column examines the question of whether and how voter turnout is affected by changes to the value of the fine, drawing on the experience of Peru, where voting has been compulsory since 1933 and the abstention fine was reformed after 2006. The study finds that compulsory voting with low fines helps reduce the burden on those that pay them without fundamentally undermining the effectiveness of the system. 

Michele Cantarella, Nicolò Fraccaroli, Roberto Volpe, 11 July 2019

'Fake news' has undeniably been biased in favour of populist or anti-establishment parties. As politically charged misinformation has been proliferating online, it is no wonder that many have been questioning whether the spread of fake news has affected the results of recent elections, contributing to the growth of populist party platforms. This column examines evidence from a natural experiment occurring in Italy and discusses how fake news might have played a less than obvious role in influencing political preferences during the general elections of 2018.

Christian Dippel, Michael Poyker, 26 June 2019

The US is unusual in that it elects most of its judges. This column uses new data from ten US states to investigate whether those judges change their sentencing pattern when they are due to stand for re-election. The findings reveal evidence of election cycles in sentencing in only four of the ten states. In others, there is anecdotal evidence that professional norms may protect sitting judges from electoral challenge.

Thomas Le Barbanchon, Julien Sauvagnat, 08 December 2018

Despite many efforts to close the gender gap, women remain underrepresented in politics. This column shows that in the case of France, voters’ preferences towards gender shapes political selection and ultimately the gender composition of elected politicians. This suggests that gender parity in policymaking relies on improving the slow-changing attitudes of voters towards male and female political candidates.

Banri Ito, 01 September 2018

With protectionism on the rise around the world, the question of why politicians often call for protectionist trade policies in their election campiagnsis becoming more important than ever. This column introduces empirical evidence from Japan to show that politicians from constituencies facing a substantial increase in imports, and therefore stronger electoral pressure, are more likely to advocate protectionist trade policies.

Emilia Simeonova, Randall Akee, John Holbein, William E. Copeland, E. Jane Costello, 15 July 2018

Political scientists have shown conclusively, at least in the US, that richer people vote more, which has troubling implications. Using data from a government cash transfer programme, this column shows that children who grew up in households in the bottom half of the income distribution that received extra income were more likely to vote as adults compared to their counterparts who did not receive the transfers. The results suggest that efforts to reduce income inequality may have the unexpected side effect of reducing gaps in civic participation.

Oscar Barrera, Sergei Guriev, Emeric Henry, Ekaterina Zhuravskaya, 02 November 2017

‘Fake news’ has become a key ingredient of Western political discourse. This column uses an experiment conducted during the 2017 French presidential election campaign to show that ‘alternative facts’ are highly persuasive. Voters exposed to a narrative based on misleading numbers shifted towards the populist’s agenda, and fact checking did nothing to undo these effects. In fact, exposing voters only to official facts on a highly sensitive subject, such as the European refugee crisis, can backfire by increasing support for the extreme right.

Edward Glaeser, Giacomo Ponzetto, 18 September 2017

Psychologists have long documented that we over-attribute people's actions to innate characteristics rather than to circumstances. This column shows that when we commit this ‘fundamental attribution error’ as voters, we over-ascribe politicians´ success to personal characteristics that merit re-election. Although this mistake can improve politicians’ incentives in ordinary times, the theory also explains lack of institutional reform and poor institutional choices, such as decreased demand for a free press and preferences for dictatorship.

Maria Petrova, Ananya Sen, Pinar Yildirim, 28 February 2017

New communication technologies change the way people become informed and stay connected, and can also change voter behaviour. This column uses a dataset covering 1,814 candidates for the US Senate with Twitter accounts to analyse how using a new social media technology can overcome the barriers of communicating with voters. Candidates receive more campaign donations after they join Twitter, but adopting the technology seems to help only new, inexperienced politicians. This suggests that new technologies can ease entry to politics for new candidates and promote political competition.

Italo Colantone, Piero Stanig, 20 February 2017

The revival of nationalism in western Europe, which began in the 1990s, has been associated with increasing support for radical right parties. This column uses trade and election data to show that the radical right gets its biggest electoral boost in regions most exposed to Chinese exports. Within these regions communities vote homogenously, whether individuals work in affected industries or not. 

Nora Lustig, 29 November 2016

Why did so many of those who feel left behind vote for a member of the global elite in the US election? This column argues that rather than an increase in income and wealth inequality, it may be a rise in equality for wealthy African-Americans, for women, and for the gay community that is feeding a greater sense of unfairness. If we advocate greater horizontal equality, we must also ensure that it is embraced, or at least tolerated, by all.

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