Pandering Politicians: Ideological Changes from Primary to General Elections
Updated: Feb 14, 2020
This paper is coauthored with William Godel and Evgenii Nitikin from New York Universy.
Voters rely, at least in part, on politicians to inform them of their ideological positions. But over the course of a two stage campaign, U.S. politicians face two distinct constituencies. Does this system encourage politicians to manipulate their messaging, pandering to their constituencies over the course of a campaign? This question has important implications for understanding voter and politician behavior, as well as the effects of primaries on electoral outcomes. We address it by estimating politicians’ expressed ideology in a dynamic setting, covering the 2018 primary and general elections, by classifying politician tweets through a semi-labeled Reddit dataset. Using this measure, we find that Republican politicians change significantly in their expressed ideology after a primary, although the effect of the primary is not consistent across all groups. Conversely, we find little evidence that Democratic politicians moderate their expressed sentiment after winning a primary.