Polarization, candidacy and advancement in politics
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My dissertation focuses on the effect of several variables on two key forms of political participation -- voting and candidacy. First, I examine how voter turnout is impacted by differences in the intensity of political beliefs across the electorate and the resulting impact on candidate issue choice. Next, I examine the role of term limits and political party recruitment policies in determining the quality of the political class. Finally, I examine the impact of term limits at the lower rungs of the political ladder on the quality of individuals seeking higher office. In Chapter 2, I present a modified version of Downs’ spatial model to analyze the effect on candidates’ policy choices when there is a positive relationship between political extremism and conviction. I assume that alienation and lack of conviction affect voter turnout negatively. I find that the positive relationship between political extremism and conviction leads candidates away from the center and describe the conditions under which segments of the electorate will abstain in equilibrium. Incorporating candidate asymmetry through differences in valence and campaign finances resulted in the strategy of the disadvantaged candidate being unrestricted. Meanwhile, the advantaged candidate can afford to be more centrist or extremist than his opponent in order to win the election. In Chapter 3, I present a multi-period model analyzing the impact of political party recruitment and retention policies and the implementation of term limits on the quality of individuals seeking a career in politics. Candidates differ in political skill and their political skill directly affects the provision of a public good. Term limits lead to a restructuring of the timing of rewards for political careers. I find that term limits increase the probability of entry of those of lesser quality. Under certain conditions, term limits reduce the expected ability of those entering the political arena, as those of higher ability are more adversely affected by the restructuring of rewards. In Chapter 4, I explore the extent to which term limits alter the average quality of office-seekers for higher-level political positions. In addition, I determine whether improvement in quality in upper level political positions comes at the expense of lower level positions. The results suggest that term limits on lower level elected offices reduce the expected political skill of officeholders at this level. Under limited circumstances, term limits will also reduce the expected political skill of those seeking upper level political positions. Under most conditions, term limitation at lower level offices lead to an improvement in the quality of elected officials in upper level offices.