An Experimental Investigation of Election Promises [link]

Political Psychology 2018, with Pieter van Eck & Magnus Johannesson

We analyze the effect of election promises on electoral behavior in a laboratory experiment. In the experiment, politicians can make non-binding election promises about how to split an endowment between themselves and the group. We find that promises affect both voting and voter beliefs about how much the politician will contribute to the public fund. The relationship is inverted U-shaped with decreasing credibility of higher promises. Contributions of politicians are correlated with their promises in a similar pattern. The election promises are generally credible unless particularly high. Politicians keep promises more often if a re-election is possible, and if the politician came into power by vote rather than by random draw. Voters reward high contributions in the previous period and punish promise breaking even after controlling for the contribution in the previous period or voters’ beliefs about future contributions. By controlling for voters’ beliefs we distinguish retrospective from prospective voting. Our results suggest that voters both use promises for prospective voting, and retrospectively punish broken promises.

Work in Progress

Promise Competition [link]

Working Paper

This paper studies competition when sellers cannot perfectly commit to the quality of their offers. I propose a model in which two sellers compete by promising service-quality to a one-time-only customer and test its predictions in a laboratory experiment. Sellers have private information about the individual cost of supplying quality and of breaking promises. In equilibrium, sellers pool their promises and competition induces them to promise higher quality than they would provide absent promises. Honest sellers keep their high promise, therefore promise competition raises average service-quality despite non-binding contracts and private information. However, pooling prevents positive selection of better sellers. The experiment confirms these predictions. Promise competition increases the amount participants give and – while participants distinguish themselves by their promises initially – they learn to pool their promises and selecting better seller-types becomes impossible eventually. The results suggest an explanation for the prevalence of promises in market interactions even though promises are non-binding and uninformative.

A Man's World? The Impact of a Male Dominated Environment on Female Leadership [link]

Accepted in Review of Economics and Statistics, with Anna Sandberg & Eva Ranehill

Despite the significant growth in female labor force participation and educational attainment over the past decades, labor markets remain vertically and horizontally segregated. In this study, we explore whether male dominated environments, in and of themselves, adversely affect women´s willingness to lead a team. We find that women randomly assigned to male majority teams are less willing to become team leaders than women assigned to female majority teams are. Analyses of potential mechanisms show that women in male majority teams are less confident in their relative performance, less influential and more swayed by others in the team discussions. They also (accurately) believe that they will receive less support from team members in the leadership election. Taken together, our results indicate that the absence of women in male dominated contexts may be a self-reinforcing process.

Does a district-vote matter for the behavior of politicians? A textual analysis of parliamentary speeches using machine learning

work in progress with Aljoscha Janssen

Members of the German parliament can be elected over their party’s list or a district. This paper uses a discontinuity to quantify the causal effect of a district-election on the conformity to the party line in parliamentary speeches and voting. We observe strong adherence to party voting and a district-election does not affect a roll-call voting causally. We use textual analysis to analyze parliamentary speeches. Speeches of district-elected members of parliament do not differ, in terms of cosines-distance, from those of their party-peers who have been elected through closed party lists. To build a measure of closeness of a speech to a party, we train a classifier on the party manifestos to predict the probability that a parliamentary speech belongs to a certain party. The predicted likelihoods provide us with a measure of closeness of the MPs’ speeches to their own party's manifesto. At the discontinuity, district elected candidates do not use a wording closer or further away from the party's manifesto. In conclusion a district election does not influence an MP’s adherence to the party line causally.