Federica Izzo


With Friends Like These, Who Needs Enemies?

Why are political leaders often attacked by their ideological allies? The paper addresses this puzzle by presenting a model in which the conflict between the incumbent and his allies is ideological, dissent is electorally costly, and voters are learning about their own policy preferences over time. Here, by dissenting against the incumbent (and thereby harming the party in the upcoming election), the allies can change his incentives to choose more or less extreme policies, which affects the amount of voter learning. This induces a trade-off between winning the current election and inducing the party leadership to pursue the allies’ all-things-considered more-preferred policy. Optimally balancing this trade-off sometimes involves active dissent that damages the party in the short-run. In equilibrium dissent arises precisely because it is electorally costly.

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Ideology for the Future

Do ideologically motivated parties have strategic incentives to lose? I present a model of repeated spatial elections in which the voters face uncertainty about their preferred policy and learn via experience upon observing their payoff realization. The amount of voter learning, I show, depends on the location of the implemented policy: the more extreme the policy is, the more information is generated. This, in turn, creates a trade-off for a party whose ideological stance is unpopular with the electorate, between winning the upcoming election so as to secure policy influence, and changing the voters’ preferences so as to win with a better platform in the future. Under some conditions the party gambles on the future: chooses to lose today, in order to change voters’ views and win big tomorrow.

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Cumulative Knowledge in the Social Sciences: The Case of Improving Voters’ Information

(with Torun Dewan and Stephane Wolton)

To achieve accumulation of knowledge, scholars have adopted the strategy of reproducing similar designs in different contexts and comparing the resulting estimates. These enterprises have often yielded mixed findings, with some empirical results diverging starkly from theoretical predictions. A prominent example is the literature on the effects of improving voters’ information. How are we to interpret such inconclusive evidence? Using a game theoretic model we establish that existing empirical works on the effect of information treatments do not always measure a well-defined theoretical quantity. This impedes knowledge accumulation as these empirical studies are likely to give different results even absent any internal validity concerns (studies are perfectly randomized), external validity issues (contexts are similar), or statistical noises (the number of observations is unbounded). Our paper offers several recommendations on how to ensure comparability across distinct studies; that is, to ensure that each study measures the same theoretical quantity.

Do We Get the Best Candidates When We Need Them the Most?

Do the right candidates for office choose to run at the right time? I analyze a model of repeated elections in which politicians differ in the probability of being competent. Voters update their beliefs about the office holder's ability upon observing his performance in office. In each period, the country faces either a safe situation or a crisis. A crisis has two key features: it exacerbates the importance of the office holder's competence and, as a consequence, the informativeness of his performance. I show that electoral accountability has the perverse consequence of discouraging good candidates from running in times of crisis. Precisely when the voter would need him the most, the politician who is most likely to be competent chooses to stay out of the race in order preserve his electoral capital. In contrast with results in the existing literature, this adverse selection emerges even if running is costless and if office is more valuable than the outside option.

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