DRI Working Paper No. 38
By Alastair Smith, NYU and Bruce Bueno de Mesquita, NYU
In contrast to traditional approaches to patronage politics, in which politician directly buy electoral support from individuals, we examine how patronage based parties can elicit wide spread electoral support by offering to allocate benefits to the precinct giving it the most support. Provided that the party can observe precinct level voting, this mechanism, which eliminates the need to observe individual votes or to reward a large number of individual voters, incentivizes voters to support a party even when the party enacts policies which are against their interests. When a party allocates rewards contingent upon precinct-level voting results, voters can be pivotal both in terms of affecting who wins the election and in influencing which precinct gets the benefits. The latter (prize pivotalness) dominates the former (outcome pivotalness), particular when a patronage party is anticipated to win. Competition between the precincts for prize pivotalness encourages rational voting even when the odds of outcome pivotalness approach 0.