Quarterly Journal of Political Science > Vol 14 > Issue 2

Reputation Effects and Incumbency (Dis)Advantage

Navin Kartik, Columbia University, USA, nkartik@columbia.edu , Richard Van Weelden, University of Pittsburgh, USA, rmv22@pitt.edu
Suggested Citation
Navin Kartik and Richard Van Weelden (2019), "Reputation Effects and Incumbency (Dis)Advantage", Quarterly Journal of Political Science: Vol. 14: No. 2, pp 131-157. http://dx.doi.org/10.1561/100.00016057

Publication Date: 10 Apr 2019
© 2019 N. Kartik and R. Van Weelden
Elections,  Electoral Institutions,  Formal Modeling,  Game Theory,  Political Corruption,  Political Economy,  Voting behavior,  Uncertainty,  Voting
Electoral accountabilityincumbency effectsreputationpanderingterm limits


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In this article:
A Model with Term Limits 
Good and Bad Reputation 
Main Results 
Incumbency Effects when Type is Revealed in Office 
Proof of Proposition 2 
Simultaneous Good and Bad Reputation 
Out-of-Office Policy Payoffs 


We study dynamic models of electoral accountability. Politicians' policy preferences are their private information, so officeholders act to influence the electorate's beliefs — i.e., to build reputation — and improve their re-election prospects. The resulting behavior may be socially desirable (good reputation effects) or undesirable (bad reputation effects). When newly-elected officeholders face stronger reputation pressures than their established counterparts, good reputation effects give rise to incumbency disadvantage, while bad reputation effects induce incumbency advantage, all else equal. We relate these results to empirical patterns on incumbency effects across democracies.