Panel Paper: Strategic Entry and a Polarized Legislature

Friday, November 7, 2014 : 1:50 PM
Navajo (Convention Center)

*Names in bold indicate Presenter

Dan Alexander, University of Chicago
In this paper we address one of the most pertinent questions about the current U.S. Congress: Why so much polarization (McCarty, Poole and Rosenthal, 2008) given overwhelming centrism of the broader population (Fiorina 2010)? In the end we submit a straight forward answer to this question based on a generic model of candidate entry in plurality rule elections. We develop a model of strategic entry into elections, solve for the equilibrium cases, and perform comparative statics analyses. These analyses provide insight on the probabilities of witnessing certain events, most importantly victory by incumbents with platforms diverging from the median voter. The important bottom line that we articulate is that, contrary to widespread common wisdom in the literature, the use of plurality rule, given very reasonable assumptions on the heterogeneous nature of voters' distributions, leads to a very signi cant prolife ration of uncontested districts which, in turn, explains the polarization of the current U.S. Congress.