Archives for elections



Does Money Really Buy Elections? A New Marketplace Podcast

Mitt Romney won big in New Hampshire, but his opponents are vowing to push on in South Carolina. Which means stepping up their pleas for cash. In an e-mail to supporters, Rick Santorum wrote:

We must show real progress tonight and redouble our efforts … That’s why my campaign launched the “Game On” Moneybomb, and why we need your help right now. As you already know, we are facing serious and well-funded opposition for the nomination.

That’s the kind of language that confirms one of the biggest truisms in politics: money buys elections.

But how true is that truism? Read More »



Research Ideas From a Mexican Reader

A reader called HDT writes to say:

I live in Mexico and have often wondered why more American economists and students of economics don’t often venture down here because the country offers what seems, to me at least, a treasure trove of economic oddities that should fascinate anyone interested in how markets work.

* As Mexico is heading toward what’s likely to be the second most important election in its history, the subject of vote-buying is of particular interest if for no other reason than that it’s practiced fairly openly, especially in rural areas. I know that during the last elections, here in Yucatan, votes were being bought, in cash, for around $80. (Pigs and cows were also exchanged for votes, but I wasn’t ever able to find out what the “going rate” was for those particular transactions.) There are, of course, people employed by the major political parties who specialize in determining what votes are worth throughout the country. I imagine they’re easier to find, and talk to, than you might expect.

* There’s also the rather intriguing issue of how Mexican real estate agents determine a reasonable price for any given property they’re hoping to sell. The problem is that it’s customary to decrease the tax burden on the sale of a home by getting the buyer to lie about how much he or paid. In other words, the sales prices stated in government records are almost never accurate. Everyone knows this. And yet, properties regularly change hands and real estate agents do manage to make a living. But how?

Any takers?



FREAK-est Links, Voter-Fraud Edition

1. Russian election fraud analysis now in English; no matter the language, Putin disagrees
2. Using a natural experiment to find voter fraud in Japan (abstract; PDF)
3. And, not quite voter fraud, but: politicians who cut budget deficits don’t necessarily get booted out of office.



Was the Russian Election Fraudulent?

The Times today published a compelling report of first-hand observations of election fraud in Russia’s recent parliamentary elections. There are mounting protests; Secretary of State Hillary Clinton voiced “serious concerns” about the election and called for a “full investigation of electoral fraud and manipulation.”

But what if those first-hand observations were anomalous? What if the outcome for Vladimir Putin‘s United Russia Party, as disappointing as it was for him, truly represents the will of the Russian people? Read More »



In Some Elections, Second Best Might Be Good Enough

On Tuesday, Nov. 8, Portland, Maine will hold its first mayoral election in 88 years. (The mayorship previously rotated between city council members.) But it’s going to be unusual for another reason: voters will use a ranked choice system, which means they have to list the 15 candidates in order of preference. An image of the ballot appears below. Here’s the AP’s David Sharp reporting on the complexities:

The ballot is too complicated to be understood by the city’s voting machines, so only first-place votes will be announced on the night of the election, said Caleb Kleppner, vice president of TrueBallot Inc. The final outcome of the race won’t be known until the following day when the ballots are scanned and all of voters’ rankings are extrapolated, Kleppner said.

Read More »



Wildfires, Cops, and Keggers: A New Marketplace Podcast on Election-Time Mischief

Next week, dutiful voters will head to the polls for elections. Among the jobs up for grabs are the Kentucky and Mississippi governorships, the mayorship of San Francisco, and a smattering of municipal and state positions across the country. In many of these races, incumbents are fighting to keep their seats.

In our latest Freakonomics Radio on Marketplace podcast (you can download/subscribe at iTunes, get the RSS feed, listen live via the media player above, or read the transcript), we examine the side effects that elections sometimes produce. Steve Levitt wrote about one such effect several years ago (here is the original study, and here’s an update): in mayoral and gubernatorial election years, police forces tend to grow and crime tends to fall.

As Stephen Dubner explains to Kai Ryssdal, incumbents’ incentives change when they run for re-election. They might try to perform better, hiring more police or lowering taxes. But they also might cater more to special interests, giving out election-time favors and even enabling illegal activities.

We went out in search of various election-year anomalies and found some pretty interesting stuff. Read More »



Talk Back: Tell Us Your Election Stories

Ever notice anything strange around town when elections are coming up?

Our latest podcast, “Wildfires, Cops, and Keggers,” looks into the odd by-products of electoral politics — that is, not just which politicians get elected, but what kind of below-the-radar shenanigans happen before (and sometimes after) an election, usually inspired by how an incumbent’s incentives are lined up. Maybe property taxes dropped in the run-up to an election, only to spike once an incumbent had won another term. Maybe more cops and firemen were hired during campaign season.

Given that many of these election-cycle fluctuations occur in less-scrutizined local elections, we want to hear from you any interesting examples you’ve witnessed. Tell us your election stories in the comments below!



Do Lower Wages and Higher Unemployment Increase Voter Turnout?

A recent study by Kerwin Kofi Charles and Melvin Stephens Jr argues that increases in wages and employment reduce voter turnout in gubernatorial elections, though not in presidential contests.

From the abstract:

This paper argues that, since activities that provide political information are complementary with leisure, increased labor market activity should lower turnout, but should do so least in prominent elections where information is ubiquitous. Using official county-level voting data and a variety of OLS and TSLS models, we find that increases in wages and employment: reduce voter turnout in gubernatorial elections by a significant amount; have no effect on Presidential turnout; and raise the share of persons voting in a Presidential election who do not vote on a House of Representative election on the same ballot.

Read More »