Discussion paper

DP16037 Using Re-election Thresholds to Curb Political Polarization

We examine how tightening reelection hurdles for incumbents can curb political polarization and increase welfare. We use a two-period model in which a politician is elected for office in the first period and enacts a new policy. In the second period, elections take place between the incumbent and a challenger, and the winning candidate chooses the extent to which the first-period policy is reformed. Reforming a policy is costly, and such costs increase with the policy shift and are borne by parties and voters. We show that raising the vote-share needed for re-election above one half reduces policy polarization and increases welfare. Moreover, the latter measures depend on the re-election threshold in a non-monotonic way and a particular (intermediate) threshold simultaneously minimizes policy polarization and maximizes welfare.


Gersbach, H, P Muller and O Tejada (2021), ‘DP16037 Using Re-election Thresholds to Curb Political Polarization‘, CEPR Discussion Paper No. 16037. CEPR Press, Paris & London. https://cepr.org/publications/dp16037