The Effect of Candidate Quality on Electoral Equilibrium: An Experimental Study


When two candidates of different quality compete in a one dimensional policy space, the equilibrium outcomes are asymmetric and do not correspond to the median. There are three main effects. First, the better candidate adopts more centrist policies than the worse candidate. Second, the equilibrium is statistical, in the sense that it predicts a probability distribution of outcomes rather than a single degenerate outcome. Third, the equilibrium varies systematically with the level of uncertainty about the location of the median voter. We test these three predictions using laboratory experiments, and find strong support for all three. We also observe some biases and show that they can be explained by Quantal Response Equilibrium.