The politics of ambiguity

Alberto Alesina*, Alex Cukierman

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

192 Scopus citations


Politicians face a trade–off between the policies that maximize their chances of reelection and their most preferred policies (or the policies most preferred by the constituency which they represent). This paper analyzes this trade–off in a dynamic electoral model in which the voters are not fully informed about the preferences of the incumbent. First, we show that the incumbent follows a policy which is intermediate between the other party's ideal policy and his own ideal policy. Second, we show that, often, the incumbent has an incentive to choose procedures which make it difficult for voters to pinpoint his preferences with absolute precision. Thus, politicians may prefer to be “ambiguous”.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)829-850
Number of pages22
JournalQuarterly Journal of Economics
Issue number4
StatePublished - Nov 1990


FundersFunder number
Olin and Sloan Foundations


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