Informative Campaigns, Overpromising, and Policy Bargaining

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Abstract

What is the relationship between policy positions taken in campaigns when the final policy outcome depends on other political actors? Why do candidates sometimes advocate policies in their campaigns that are unlikely or impossible to pass given the preferences of other actors in the government? We analyze a model in which candidates make non-binding policy platform announcements and then bargain with a veto player over the final policy if they take office. A candidate has private information about the distribution of voter preferences over some policy and engages in bargaining with a veto player who is responsive to voter preferences. Elections produce incentives for revelation of private information even when campaign messages are cheap talk. When voters may take campaign promises literally, elections are more likely to allow information revelation. Furthermore, in this case, politicians overpromise: the politician’s platform is outside of the range of feasible bargaining outcomes.