The internet is lauded for increasing access to information, but it is unclear whether this translates into a better-informed and more engaged voting populace. This column uses UK data to determine how the internet has changed voting patterns and aggregate policy choices. Internet penetration is found to be associated with a decrease in voter turnout, mainly among the lower socioeconomic demographic. Internet diffusion is also found to reduce local government expenditure, in particular on policies targeting less-educated voters. These findings point to a trade-off between the ‘digital divide’ and the ‘political divide’.
Alessandro Gavazza, Mattia Nardotto, Tommaso Valletti, 31 January 2016
Toke S. Aidt, Zareh Asatryan, Lusine Samvel Badalyan, Friedrich Heinemann, 28 November 2015
Central bank independence was supposed to end politically driven monetary policy. This column discusses new evidence showing a sizeable spike in the growth rate of cash and overnight bank deposits centred on election days. The spike is present in countries with weak political institutions, but not in OECD countries. The cycle seems to be related to the cash demand created by systemic vote buying.
Manuel Funke, Moritz Schularick, Christoph Trebesch, 21 November 2015
Recent events in Europe provide ample evidence that the political aftershocks of financial crises can be severe. This column uses a new dataset that covers elections and crises in 20 advanced economies going back to 1870 to systematically study the political aftermath of financial crises. Far-right parties are the biggest beneficiaries of financial crises, while the fractionalisation of parliaments complicates post-crisis governance. These effects are not observed following normal recessions or severe non-financial macroeconomic shocks.
Andrea Prat, 22 August 2014
The potential for political influence is what most people think of when they talk about the power of the media. A new media power index, proposed in this column, aggregates power across all platforms and focuses not on markets but on voters. It measures not actual media influence but rather its potential. Using the index, the author finds that the four most powerful media companies in the US are television-based and the absolute value of the index is high. This indicates that most American voters receive their news from a small number of news sources, which creates the potential for large political influence.
Anish Tailor, Nicolas Véron, 21 May 2014
The European Parliamentary elections are conducted under rules that give voters power that varies with their nationality. This inequality is higher than in European and US national elections, as well as in large emerging-market democracies like Brazil, India, and Indonesia. Making the distribution more equal would be simple, but would require a change in the EU Treaties.
Owen McDougall, Ashoka Mody, 17 May 2014
Turnout in the 2014 European Parliament elections is seen as a critical test for EU democracy. This column presents some predictions. Trust in the ECB – rather than in the European Parliament itself – has been associated with higher turnout in previous elections. Macroeconomic conditions are also important – where a country’s fiscal problems are greater, voters are more inclined to vote.
Julia Cagé, Valeria Rueda, 14 May 2014
African regions where Protestant missionaries were active had indigenous newspapers a century before other regions. This column argues, based on new research, that this difference has had lasting effects. Proximity to a mission that had a printing press in 1903 predicts newspaper readership today. Population density and light density (a proxy for economic development) is also higher today in regions nearer to missions that had printing presses. The results suggest that a well-functioning media – not Protestantism per se – was important for development.
Jeffrey Frankel, 29 April 2014
Awareness of inequality is rapidly rising. This column argues that commentators should focus on identifying the policies that are best suited to improving income distributions efficiently, and the politicians that support them. It is not sufficient to sound the alarm about inequality and the political reach of the super-rich.
Ian Gregory-Smith, Steve Thompson, Peter Wright, 24 March 2014
In 2003, the UK adopted a ‘say on pay’ policy, whereby quoted companies’ executive compensation offers have to be put to a shareholder vote. This column presents evidence that this policy has had a relatively modest impact on executive pay. A 10% increase in compensation is associated with an increase in shareholder dissent against the proposal of just 0.2%. However, remuneration committees representing the more highly rewarded CEOs are quite sensitive to dissent, provided it exceeds a critical threshold of about 10%. Shareholders do not appear more anxious about pay since the crisis.
Poonam Gupta, Arvind Panagariya, 17 March 2014
Do voters care about economic outcomes? Evidence on this question, especially in the context of developing countries, is rather scant. This column reports the findings from analysis of the 2009 parliamentary elections in India. Voters favoured parties that delivered high growth in their states and rejected those that did not. The authors also find that voters preferred candidates who had served in the parliament before, were wealthy, educated, and affiliated with a large party.
Stefano DellaVigna, John List, Ulrike Malmendier, Gautam Rao, 05 March 2014
The question of why people vote has intrigued social scientists for decades. This column discusses a model of voting due to social image motivations and presents empirical tests based on it. In this model, an individual would be motivated to vote because of an anticipation of being asked after the election. The results of a conducted field experiment suggest that the anticipation of being asked provides a large motivation to vote. In fact, the motivation is as large as being paid $5-15 to vote. Applying this methodology to other elections would provide more rigorous evidence about the validity of the proposed model.
Laurent Bouton, Paola Conconi, Francisco J Pino, Maurizio Zanardi, 09 December 2013
Despite support from around 90% of US citizens, expanded background checks for gun purchases failed in the US Senate. This ‘gun-control paradox’ can be explained by the fact that the intensity of voters’ preferences differs across policy issues, and voters only have one vote with which to hold politicians accountable on a bundle of issues. A model incorporating these features predicts Senate voting behaviour very well. Senators closer to re-election are more likely to vote pro-gun, and only Democrats ‘flip-flop’ on guns.
Federica Liberini, Eugenio Proto, Michela Redoano, 15 November 2013
Retrospective voting – voting for incumbents if one’s situation has improved under the politician’s watch – is a well-established pattern. This column shows that this pattern also applies when ‘improvement’ is measured by a subjective measure of well-being. Among the stark results discussed is the finding that newly widowed women are 10% less likely to be pro-incumbent than the control group.
Nicolas Boccard, 02 April 2013
During the 2013 papal conclave the Catholic church has been criticised for failing to give an adequate voice to the global south, which now garners a majority of Catholics. This column applies concepts from voting theory to inquire whether the south and the north are equal in the eye of the church. It suggests that the south is indeed underrepresented. In a fair world, Mexico and the Philippines should each get seven more cardinals. Italy should get 23 fewer.
John Gibson, 02 November 2012
Even before the turmoil of Hurricane Sandy, many Americans were considering not bothering to register a vote for their next president. By looking at the costs and benefits of voting, this column argues that not voting may actually be the rational choice.
Giovanni Facchini, Max Steinhardt, 21 March 2011
Which legislators are more likely to vote for more liberal immigration policies for unskilled workers? The authors of CEPR DP8299 develop and empirically test a model which correlates the skill composition of constituent voters with their legislator's voting record on migration policy. The DP finds that representatives from districts with more high-skilled workers consistently vote for more expansive unskilled immigration policies.
Daniel Gros, 16 June 2008
Incentives are extremely misaligned when a small-nation electorate can punish ‘Brussels’ and its own political class at little or no cost. Ireland represents 1% of the EU, so 99% of the cost of the ‘no’ falls on other members. This column proposes a radical solution – the other EU members should propose to leave the old EU and create a new one with the Lisbon Treaty as its founding document. The Irish would then have to decide whether they’re in or out.
Andrew Gelman, David Park, Boris Shor, Jeronimo Cortina, 21 April 2008
Barack Obama attracted attention recently by describing small-town Americans who were “bitter” at economic prospects who “cling to guns or religion’’ in frustration. But an opposite view, 'post-materialism', suggests that, as people and societies get richer, their concerns shift from mundane bread-and-butter issues to cultural and spiritual concerns.