Skip to main content

Dynamic Pivotal Politics


We analyze a dynamic extension of a parsimonious model of lawmaking in which preferences evolve over time and today’s policy becomes tomorrow’s status quo. Unlike in existing models of pivotal politics, policy makers’ voting behavior depends on the institutional environment and on their expectations about future economic and political shocks. Relative to sincere voting, the equilibrium behavior exhibits a strategic polarization effect, which increases with the degree of consensus required by the institution, the volatility of the policy environment, and the expected ideological polarization of the future policy makers. The equilibrium behavior also exhibits a strategic policy bias, which works against any exogenous policy bias embedded in the voting rule. Our analysis implies that the existing literature underestimates the inertial effect of checks and balances and overestimates the impact of institutional biases such as fiscally conservative budget procedures.

Corresponding author
Wioletta Dziuda is an assistant professor, Harris School of Public Policy, University of Chicago, 1155 E 60th Street, Chicago, IL 60637, USA.
Antoine Loeper is a Profesor Titular, Department of Economics, Universidad Carlos III de Madrid, Calle Madrid 126, 28903 Getafe, Spain.
Hide All

Previously circulated under “Voting Rules in a Changing Environment.” Loeper gratefully acknowledges support from the Ministerio Economía y Competitividad (Spain), Grants No. RYC-2015-18326, No. ECO 2013-42710-P, No. MDM 2014-0431, and Comunidad de Madrid, MadEco-CM (S2015/HUM-3444). Part of this research was conducted while Loeper was a research fellow at Banco de Espana. Special thanks to Scott Ashworth for his invaluable help.

Hide All
Acemoglu, Daron, Egorov, Georgy, and Sonin, Konstantin. 2015. “Political Economy in a Changing World.” Journal of Political Economy 123 (5): 1038–86.
Anesi, Vincent, and Duggan, John. Forthcoming. “Existence and Indeterminacy of Markovian Equilibria in Dynamic Bargaining Games.” Theoretical Economics.
Anesi, Vincent, and Seidmann, Daniel J.. 2014. “Bargaining Over an Endogenous Agenda.” Theoretical Economics 9: 445–82.
Anesi, Vincent, and Seidmann, Daniel J., 2015. “Bargaining in Standing Committees with an Endogenous Default.” Review of Economic Studies 82 (3): 825–67.
Austen-Smith, David. 1987. “Sophisticated Sincerity: Voting Over Endogenous Agendas.” American Political Science Review 81 (4): 1323–30.
Austen-Smith, David, and Banks, Jefferey S.. 1999. Positive Political Theory I: Collective Preference. Ann Arbor, MI: Michigan University Press.
Barber, Michael, and McCarty, Nolan. 2010. “Causes and Consequences of Polarization.” In Negotiating Agreement in Politics, eds. Mansbridge, J. and Martin, C. J.. Washington D.C.: American Political Science Association, 1953.
Barbera, Salvador, and Jackson, Matthew. 2004. “Choosing How to Choose: Self-Stable Majority Rules and Constitutions.” The Quarterly Journal of Economics 119 (3): 1011–48.
Baron, David. 1991. “Majoritarian Incentives, Pork Barrel Programs, and Procedural Control.” American Journal of Political Science 35 (1): 5790.
Baron, David. 1996. “A Dynamic Theory of Collective Goods Programs.” The American Political Science Review 90 (2): 316–30.
Baron, David, and Bowen, Renee. 2015. “Dynamic Coalitions.” Stanford University Graduate School of Business Research Paper No. 2128.
Baron, David, and Kalai, Ehud. 1993. “The Simplest Equilibrium of a Majority-Rule Division Game.” Journal of Economic Theory 61 (2): 290301.
Battaglini, Marco, and Coate, Stephen. 2007. “Inefficiency in Legislative Policymaking: A Dynamic Analysis.” American Economic Review 97 (1): 118–49.
Battaglini, Marco, and Coate, Stephen. 2008. “A Dynamic Theory of Public Spending, Taxation, and Debt.” American Economic Review 98 (1): 201–36.
Bernhardt, Dan, and Buisseret, Peter. 2017. “Dynamics of Policymaking: Stepping Back to Leap Forward, Stepping Forward to Keep Back.” American Journal of Political Science 61 (4): 820–35.
Besley, Tim, and Case, Anne. 2003. “Political Institutions and Policy Choices: Evidence from the United States.Journal of Economic Literature 41 (1): 773.
Binder, Sarah A., and Smith, Steven S.. 1997. Politics or Principle? Filibustering in the United States Senate. Washington, D.C.: Brookings Institution Press.
Bowen, Renee, Chen, Ying, and Eraslan, Hulya. 2014. “Mandatory versus Discretionary Spending: The Status Quo Effect.” American Economic Review 104 (10): 2941–74.
Bowen, Renee, Chen, Ying, Eraslan, Hulya, and Zapal, Jan. 2017. “Efficiency of Flexible Budgetary Institutions.” Journal of Economic Theory 167: 148–76.
Brady, David W., and Volden, Craig. 2006. Revolving Gridlock: Politics and Policy from Jimmy Carter to George W. Bush. Boulder, CO: Westview Press.
Buchanan, James M., and Tullock, Gordon. 1962. The Calculus of Consent. Ann Arbor, MI: University of Michigan Press.
Callander, Steven, and Krehbiel, Keith. 2014. “Gridlock and Delegation in a Changing World.” American Journal of Political Science 58 (4): 819–34.
Chiou, Fang-Yi, and Rothenberg, Lawrence S.. 2009. “A Unified Theory of U.S. Lawmaking: Preferences, Institutions, and Party Discipline.” Journal of Politics 71 (4): 1257–72.
Clinton, Joshua. 2012. “Congress, Lawmaking and the Fair Labor Standards Act, 1971–2000.” American Journal of Political Science 56 (2): 355–72.
Clinton, Joshua, and Meirowitz, Adam. 2004. “Testing Accounts of Legislative Strategic Voting: The Compromise of 1790.” American Journal of Political Science 48 (4): 675–89.
Clinton, Joshua, Jackman, Simon, and Rivers, Douglas. 2004. “The Statistical Analysis of Roll Call Data.” American Political Science Review 98 (2): 355–70.
Compte, Olivier, and Jehiel, Philippe. 2010. “Bargaining and Majority Rules: A Collective Search Perspective.” Journal of Political Economy 118 (2): 189221.
Cox, Gary W., and McCubbins, Mathew D.. 2005. Setting the Agenda: Responsible Party Government in the U.S. House of Representatives. New York: Cambridge University Press.
Diermeier, Daniel, Egorov, Georgy, and Sonin, Konstantin. 2017. “Political Economy of Redistribution.” Econometrica 85 (3): 851–70.
Dixit, Avinash, Grossman, Gene M., and Gul, Faruk. 2000. “The Dynamics of Political Compromise.” Journal of Political Economy 108 (3): 531–68.
Duggan, John, and Kalandrakis, Tsasos. 2012. “Dynamic Legislative Policy Making.” Journal of Economic Theory 147 (5): 1653–88.
Dziuda, Wioletta, and Loeper, Antoine. 2016. “Dynamic Collective Choice with Endogenous Status Quo.” Journal of Political Economy 124 (4): 1148–86.
Eraslan, Hulya, and Merlo, Antonio. 2002. “Majority Rule in a Stochastic Model of Bargaining.” Journal of Economic Theory 103 (1): 3148.
Fiorina, Morris P. 1994. “Divided Government in the American States: A By-product of Legislative Professionalism?American Political Science Review 88 (2): 304–16.
Gale, William G., and Orszag, Peter R.. 2003. “Sunsets in the Tax Code.” Tax Notes 99, 1553–61.
Gersen, Jacob E. 2007. “Temporary Legislation.University of Chicago Law Review 74 (1): 269–71.
Gradstein, Mark. 1999. Optimal Taxation and Fiscal Constitution. Journal of Public Economics 72 (3): 471–85.
Guttman, Joel. 1998. “Unanimity and Majority Rule: The Calculus of Consent Reconsidered.European Journal of Political Economy 14 (2): 189207.
Hacker, Jacob. 2004. “Privatizing Risk without Privatizing the Welfare State: The Hidden Politics of Social Policy Retrenchment in the United States.” American Political Science Review 98 (2): 243–60.
Harstad, Bard. 2005. “Majority Rules and Incentives.” Quarterly Journal of Economics 120 (4): 535–68.
Heckman, James J., and Snyder, James M.. 1997. “Linear Probability Models of the Demand for Attributes with an Empirical Application to Estimating the Preferences of Legislators.” The RAND Journal of Economics 28 (0): S142S189.
Howell, William G., and Moe, Terry. 2016. Relic: How Our Constitution Undermines Effective Government—And Why We Need a More Powerful Presidency. New York: Basic Books.
Jordan, Meagan M., and Hoffman, Kim U.. 2009. “The Revenue Impact of State Legislative Supermajority Voting Requirements.Midsouth Political Science Review 10: 115.
Kalandrakis, Tsasos. 2004. “A Three-player Dynamic Majoritarian Bargaining Game.” Journal of Economic Theory 116 (2): 294322.
Kalandrakis, Tsasos. 2010. “Rationalizable Voting.” Theoretical Economics 5 (1): 93125.
Knight, Brian. 2000. “Supermajority Voting Requirements for Tax Increases: Evidence from the States.” Journal of Public Economics 76 (1): 4167.
Krehbiel, Keith. 1998. Pivotal Politics: A Theory of U.S. Lawmaking. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
Koger, Gregory. 2010. Filibustering: A Political History of Obstruction in the House and Senate. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
Leachman, Michael, Johnson, Nicholas, and Grundman, Dylan. 2012. Six Reasons Why Supermajority Requirements to Raise Taxes Are a Bad Idea. Report for Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.
Levit, Mindy R., Austin, D. Andrew, and Stupak, Jeffrey M.. 2015. Mandatory Spending since 1962. Congressional Research Service, retrieval date April 22, 2018.
May, Kenneth O. 1952. “A Set of Independent, Necessary and Sufficient Conditions for Simple Majority Decision.” Econometrica 20 (4): 680–4.
McCarty, Nolan. 2007. “The Policy Effects of Political Polarization.” In The Transformation of American Politics: Activist Government and the Rise of Conservatism, eds. Pierson, P. and Skocpol, T.. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 223–55.
McCarty, Nolan, Poole, Keith T., and Rosenthal, Howard. 2008. Polarized America: The Dance of Ideology and Unequal Riches. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
Messner, Matthias, and Polborn, Mattias. 2004. “Voting on Majority Rules.” Review of Economics Studies 71 (1): 115–32.
Penn, E. Maggie. 2009. “A Model of Farsighted Voting.” American Journal of Political Science 53 (1): 3654.
Piguillem, Facundo, and Riboni, Alessandro. 2013. Dynamic bargaining over redistribution in legislatures. Working paper, Ecole Polytechnique, Paris.
Piguillem, Facundo, and Riboni, Alessandro. 2015. “Spending-biased Legislators: Discipline Through Disagreement.” Quarterly Journal of Economics 130 (2): 901–49.
Poole, Keith, and Rosenthal, Howard. 1985. “A Spatial Model for Legislative Roll Call Analysis.” American Journal of Political Science 29 (2): 357–84.
Poole, Keith, and Rosenthal, H. Howard. 1991. “Patterns of Congressional Voting.” American Journal of Political Science 35 (1): 228–78.
Rae, Douglas W. 1969. “Decision-Rules and Individual Values in Constitutional Choice.American Political Science Review 63 (1): 4056.
Riboni, Alessandro, and Ruge-Murcia, Francisco. 2008. “The Dynamic (In)efficiency of Monetary Policy by Committee.” Journal of Money, Credit, and Banking 40 (5): 1001–32.
Riboni, Alessandro, and Ruge-Murcia, Francisco. 2010. “Monetary Policy by Committee: Consensus, Chairman Dominance or Simple Majority?Quarterly Journal of Economics 125 (1): 363416.
Roberts, Kevin. 2007. “Condorcet Cycles? A Model of Intertemporal Voting.” Social Choice and Welfare 29 (3): 383404.
Shotts, Kenneth. 2003. “Does Racial Redistricting Cause Conservative Policy Outcomes? Policy Preferences of Southern Representatives in the 1980s and 1990s.” Journal of Politics 65 (1): 216– 26.
Strulovici, Bruno. 2010. “Learning While Voting: Determinants of Collective Experimentation.” Econometrica 78 (3): 933–71.
Tsebellis, George. 2002. Veto Players. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.
Villas-Boas, J. Miguel. 1997. “Comparative Statics of Fixed Points.” Journal of Economic Theory 73 (1): 183–98.
Wawro, Gregory J., and Schickler, Eric. 2006. Filibuster: Obstruction and Lawmaking in the U.S. Senate. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.
Weaver, Kent. 1988. Automatic Government: The Politics of Indexation. Washington D.C.: Brookings Institution Press.
Zapal, Jan. 2011. Explicit and Implicit Status-quo Determination in Dynamic Bargaining: Theory and Application to FOMC directive. Working paper, CERGE-EI, Prague.
Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

American Political Science Review
  • ISSN: 0003-0554
  • EISSN: 1537-5943
  • URL: /core/journals/american-political-science-review
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *


Altmetric attention score

Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 10
Total number of PDF views: 93 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 489 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between 16th May 2018 - 25th June 2018. This data will be updated every 24 hours.