We study a Downsian model of electoral competition, allowing different voters to have different and private valuations of candidates’quality. Unlike models in which the voters’valuations of candidates’ quality are common and common knowledge and which never admit pure strategy equilibria, in our setup we show existence of both converging and mildly diverging pure strategy equilibria. Perhaps more importantly, we uncover a non-monotonic (U-shaped) relationship between the extent of heterogeneity in voters’valuations and the maximum degree of equilibrium platform differentiation. In particular, we demonstrate that: a) a disagreement among voters on which candidate is better leads to a depoliticized vote, while an agreement on this issue leads to a politicized one; and b) as voters become more heterogeneous in how they evaluate candidates’quality, existence of pure strategy equilibria becomes more likely.
Published as: Voters' private valuation of candidates' quality in Journal of Public Economics December, 2015