Directional cheap talk in electoral campaigns


Can campaign communications credibly transmit information about candidates' policy intentions? To answer this question, I develop and analyze a game-theoretic model of campaign communication in a two-candidate majority rule election with multidimensional policies. Candidate and voter preferences are private information and campaigns consist of both candidates sending cheap talk messages in order to communicate information about their preferences. The game possesses equilibria involving informative campaign messages which reveal information about the directions of the candidates' ideal points from the center of the policy space but leave the voters uncertain about which candidate is more extreme. The results challenge standard arguments about communication in elections, which suggest that meaningful information transmission is not possible when talk is cheap. The formal model also makes predictions about issue packaging and selection in multidimensional campaigns. For instance, candidates choose to speak in terms of orthogonal ideological dimensions that cut across multiple policy issues.

In Journal of Politics