Do the Advantages of Incumbency Advantage Incumbents?

31 Pages Posted: 6 Oct 2008 Last revised: 21 Jul 2010

See all articles by Sanford C. Gordon

Sanford C. Gordon

New York University (NYU) - Wilf Family Department of Politics

Dimitri Landa

New York University (NYU) - Wilf Family Department of Politics

Date Written: January 30, 2009

Abstract

We develop a model that calls into question whether some key sources of incumbency advantage frequently cited in the empirical and theoretical literature are, in fact, beneficial to incumbents. Our results show that increases in ostensible benefits of incumbency associated with these sources make it difficult for voters to differentiate incumbents of higher and lower quality. While this leads to an improvement in the electoral prospects of lower-quality incumbents, it is harmful to those of higher quality. Whether the net electoral consequence for high-quality incumbents is positive or negative depends on whether an ostensible source of incumbency advantage affects candidate entry and exit decisions directly or indirectly, as mediated through voters' choices. Our findings suggest, further, that fundamental tensions may exist between different sources of incumbency advantage, and point to obstacles to disaggregating the sources of incumbency advantage empirically.

Keywords: elections, incumbency, signaling model, voters

JEL Classification: D72, D82

Suggested Citation

Gordon, Sanford C. and Landa, Dimitri, Do the Advantages of Incumbency Advantage Incumbents? (January 30, 2009). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1277281 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.1277281

Sanford C. Gordon (Contact Author)

New York University (NYU) - Wilf Family Department of Politics ( email )

19 West 4th Street, 2nd Floor
New York, NY 10012
United States

Dimitri Landa

New York University (NYU) - Wilf Family Department of Politics ( email )

715 Broadway
New York, NY 10003
United States

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