Downsian Convergence on Non-Policy Issues

LIEPP seminar - June 6th 2019 - 12:30-14:30
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L'axe Evaluation de la démocratie du LIEPP a le plaisir de vous inviter au séminaire: 

Downsian Convergence on Non-Policy Issues: Evidence from Campaign Manifestos at French Legislative Elections

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Money and Ideology: Evidence from French Legislative elections

Caroline Le Pennec

Jeudi 6 juin 2019

12h30 - 14h30 

Salle du LIEPP

254 boulevard Saint Germain, 75007 Paris 



Downsian Convergence on Non-Policy Issues: Evidence from Campaign Manifestos at French Legislative Elections (joint with Paul Vertier)

In this paper we assess the extent to which individual politicians respond to electoral competition when policy positions are exogenously determined by their party and cannot be credibly altered. We exploit the natural variation in competition in two-round elections. More specifically, we assemble a unique dataset of about 30,000 manifestos circulated by candidates to the French legislative elections before each election round, between 1958 and 1993. Using computational text analysis, we scale manifestos on a left-to-right axis and show that candidates who make it to the runoff moderate their discourse before the second round. This convergence pattern toward the center of a left-to-right scale is not due to a change in views on policy issues. Instead, candidates move away from their party platform and campaign on more personalized and consensual arguments. We provide additional evidence that discourse moderation does not imply policy convergence but reflects convergence on non-policy issues. In particular, candidates who moderate their discourse the most seem less aligned with their voters' preferred platform and have lower chances of winning than other candidates from the same party. Conditional on being elected, they tend to engage in more legislative activity while in office - especially in activities related to constituency service.

Our empirical findings are consistent with a simple model where politicians choose strategically whether to campaign on - and later provide - policy or non-policy representation. As such, they have implications for our understanding of electoral competition and downsian convergence as a mechanism to provide 'good' representation, even when policy positions are fixed.

Money and Ideology: Evidence from French Legislative elections (joint with Julia Cage and Elisa Mougin)

We study the impact of corporate donations on the campaigning messages of the French Member of Parliament candidates and then on the subsequent parliamentary activity of the elected candidates. We construct a novel dataset that combines data on the type and amount of money received by the candidates and the contents of their political manifestos, as well as information on the bills their propose and on their questions to the members of the Government. We first analyze the determinants of corporate donations. Using textual analysis methods, we then examine whether the amount and the nature of donations influence electoral messages. More precisely, we study the impact of donations on candidate polarization and coherence with parties' stance and discourses. Considering the elected candidates, we finally analyze how their funding impact their subsequent parliamentary activity. Our data cover the 9th, 10th, and 11th legislatures: we exploit the French reform of 1988 that allow candidates to receive donations as a first shock on funding and the 1995 ban on corporate donations as a second shock, and use a difference-in-differences strategy to test for the effects of funding.