Strategic ambiguity in electoral competition

Enriqueta Aragonès, Zvika Neeman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Many have observed that political candidates running for election are often purposefully expressing themselves in vague and ambiguous terms. In this paper, we provide a simple formal model of this phenomenon. We model the electoral competition between two candidates as a two-stage game. In the first stage of the game, two candidates simultaneously choose their ideologies, in the second stage, they simultaneously choose their levels of ambiguity. Ambiguity, although disliked by voters, may be sustained in equilibrium. More interestingly, we provide insight into the causes for ideological differentiation by showing that politicians may wish to differentiate themselves ideologically so that they can afford to become more ambiguous.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)183-204
Number of pages22
JournalJournal of Theoretical Politics
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 2000
Externally publishedYes


  • Ambiguity
  • Electoral competition
  • Ideological differentiation


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