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Tactical Extremism



We provide an instrumental theory of extreme campaign platforms. By adopting an extreme platform, a previously mainstream party with a relatively small probability of winning further reduces its chances. On the other hand, the party builds credibility as the one most capable of delivering an alternative to mainstream policies. The party gambles that if down the road voters become dissatisfied with the status quo and seek something different, the party will be there ready with a credible alternative. In essence, the party sacrifices the most immediate election to invest in greater future success. We call this phenomenon tactical extremism. We show under which conditions we expect tactical extremism to arise and we discuss its welfare implications.


Corresponding author

*Jon X. Eguia, Associate Professor of Economics, Michigan State University,
Francesco Giovannoni, Reader of Economics, University of Bristol,


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We thank Peter Buisseret, Matt Grossmann, Mark Wickham-Jones, Carlo Prato, Daniel Seidmann, four anonymous reviewers, and participants at NICEP 2016 in Nottingham, RES 2017 in Bristol, and APEN 2018 in Canberra for comments and suggestions.



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American Political Science Review
  • ISSN: 0003-0554
  • EISSN: 1537-5943
  • URL: /core/journals/american-political-science-review
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