Quarterly Journal of Political Science > Vol 16 > Issue 1

A Model of Interest Group Influence and Campaign Advertising

Zuheir Desai, Princeton University, USA and IE University, Spain, zdesai@princeton.edu John Duggan, University of Rochester, USA, dugg@ur.rochester.edu
Suggested Citation
Zuheir Desai and John Duggan (2021), "A Model of Interest Group Influence and Campaign Advertising", Quarterly Journal of Political Science: Vol. 16: No. 1, pp 105-137. http://dx.doi.org/10.1561/100.00019123

Publication Date: 11 Jan 2021
© 2021 Z. Desai and J. Duggan
Elections: Campaigns,  Elections: Voting behavior,  Campaigns,  Elections,  Electoral behavior,  Formal modelling,  Game theory,  Interest groups,  Political economy
Campaign spendinginformative advertisinginterest groupspolitical advertising


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In this article:
Related Theoretical Literature 
Baseline Model with One Interest Group 
Campaign Equilibria with One Interest Group 
Competing Interest Groups 
Beneficial Aspects of Advertising 


We analyze a citizen–candidate model of elections between an incumbent and challenger to investigate the logic of interest group influence on election outcomes through campaign advertising. Whereas the incumbent's position is known to voters, the challenger is relatively unknown, and groups may allocate spending (either directly through independent expenditures or indirectly through campaign donations) to advertise the challenger's position. We prove that equilibria can feature either positive or negative advertising, but not both at the same time: ex ante evaluations of the challenger by the median voter determine which kind of advertising will arise. In a positive advertising equilibrium, only challengers located in a centrally located spending interval are advertised and win, while in a negative advertising equilibrium, challengers who are too extreme are targeted and lose. The analysis sheds light on the determinants of political advertising and voter beliefs, and it emphasizes their endogeneity with respect to the parameters of the model, e.g., the incumbent's location, prior beliefs of voters about the challenger's location, and the effectiveness of advertising technology. Moreover, it illuminates the preconditions for positive and negative advertising, and indicates circumstances in which one tactic is more likely to be employed than the other.