New Publication – Incumbents’ performance and political extremism

New Publication: “Incumbents’ performance and political extremism” by Galina Zudenkova, and Marina Dodlova (University of Passau) is published in the Journal of Public Economics.


This paper studies the relationship between incumbents’ performance and political extremism, both with theory and data. The theory is based on a spatial model of political competition in which voters use the incumbent’s performance in office to update their beliefs about his competence. A better performance leads to the incumbent’s electoral advantage and so allows him to announce a more extreme platform closer to his bliss point. His challenger, in turn, faces electoral disadvantage and so announces a more moderate platform in order to compensate for it. To test these predictions, we use the data on incumbents’ performance in natural disaster relief and ideological positions of the candidates in the U.S. House of Representatives elections for the time period 2000–2012. The empirical evidence shows that a better performance in post-disaster recovery is associated with more extreme ideological positions of the corresponding incumbents and more moderate ideological positions of their challengers. These and other empirical results are in line with the model predictions.