DP14906 Who is in for a Party and for What? Party Identities, Selection of Politicians and Policies

Author(s): Matteo Cervellati, Giorgio Gulino, Paolo Roberti
Publication Date: June 2020
Keyword(s): Quasi-natural Experiment Behavioral Political Economics Causal Estimates Selection of Politicians Coalition Governments
Programme Areas: Macroeconomics and Growth
Link to this Page: cepr.org/active/publications/discussion_papers/dp.php?dpno=14906

Using a quasi-natural experiment, we isolate the effect of increasing the political power of a given political party for the selection of cabinet members and the policies implemented by coalition governments. We exploit the randomization of party symbols in the ballot papers in all local elections taking place in Italy for over a decade. We document that the party whose symbol is randomly located next to the coalition candidate's name benefits from extra votes at the expense of the other parties in the same running coalition. ``Treating'' a party with a boost of votes shifts coalition policies towards this party's platform, but only for issues that feature prominently in its electoral manifesto. The documented effects are large in magnitude and also hold for smaller parties. Regarding possible mechanisms, we find that changes in the composition of elected majorities lead to the appointment of cabinet members with significantly different socio-demographic characteristics, a reflection of the treated party within the coalition. These results provide a first systematic evidence supporting the view that political ideologies are also instrumental in the selection of politicians with genuine preferences over salient issues and of their key role in mapping different positions of coalition partners into policies.