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Journal Articles Journal of Public Economic Theory Year : 2020

Political activism and polarization


I develop a model of activism and polarization in the context of electoral competition. Two candidates simultaneously announce policy platforms and seek the support of ideologically inclined activists. Activists compete to influence electoral outcomes by expending costly support for their respective candidates. The presence of activists always moderates the platform choice of candidates, compared to the case of no activism. The central finding of the paper is that the relationship between partisanship of activists and polarization is ambiguous. As activists become increasingly partisan, polarization of candidate platforms reduces or widens depending on the costs of activism. I present normative conditions under which the presence of activism and increased partisanship among activists are both welfare-improving for voters. Finally, introducing a public funding option for candidates increases polarization in the political process.
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hal-02941552 , version 1 (17-09-2020)



Raghul Venkatesh. Political activism and polarization. Journal of Public Economic Theory, 2020, 22 (5), pp.1530-1558. ⟨10.1111/jpet.12439⟩. ⟨hal-02941552⟩
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