“Read my Lips!" Experimental Evidence on the Effects of Electoral Competition on Shirking and Trust

Date: 2014-11-30
By: Gari Walkowitz (University of Cologne)
Arne R. Weiss (University of Cologne)
URL: http://d.repec.org/n?u=RePEc:cgr:cgsser:05-07&r=net
We experimentally test whether electoral competition reduces shirking behavior by office-holders and increases citizens’ trust. We hypothesize that competition increases campaign promises by office-holders, who feel committed to what they promise. Using a novel repeated multi-person investment-game with periodic elections, we indeed find that elected office-holders shirk less (i.e., they back-transfer more to citizens relative to investments) as compared to randomly appointed office-holders. Surprisingly, this effect cannot be explained through competition inflating the level of electoral promises. Nevertheless, promises do matter; in fact, they carry greater weight for the behavior of elected office-holders than for their randomly appointed counterparts. Elections also have a positive short-term effect on citizens’ trust by cutting off both low and excessively high promises.
Keywords: elections, promises, shirking, trust game
JEL: D72 D02 D03 C71 C91
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