Caroline Le Pennec-Çaldichoury

Department of Economics

University of California, Berkeley

I am a PhD candidate in Economics at UC Berkeley. I will soon join the Department of Applied Economics at HEC Montréal as an Assistant Professor.

Research interests: Political Economy, Electoral Competition, Campaign Communication

Working Papers:

Abstract: In representative democracy, individual candidates often run for parliamentary seats under a national party platform, which limits their ability to compete on policy issues at the local level. I exploit a novel dataset of 30,000 candidate manifestos issued before the first and second rounds of nine French legislative elections to show that politicians strategically adjust their campaign communication to persuade voters who do not support their platform—not by moderating their policy positions but by advertising neutral non-policy issues instead. Doing so predicts better performance in office and may therefore provide voters with information that matters for representation.

Media coverage: VoxEU

Abstract: Using multi-country data from 62 elections since 1952, we show that 17% to 29% of voters make up their mind during the final two months of campaigns, generating sizeable swings in candidates’ vote shares. We obtain these results by measuring the consistency between vote intention and vote choice of respondents surveyed at different points before, and then again after, the election. Changes in vote choice are concomitant to shifts in salient issues and beliefs about candidates, while policy preferences remain remarkably stable. Televised debates do not affect vote choice formation, suggesting that information continuously received by voters is more impactful.

Work in Progress:

  • Money and Ideology: Evidence from French Legislative elections (with Julia Cagé and Elisa Mougin)

Abstract: Do campaign contributions influence politicians? In this article, we study the impact of corporate donations on political discourse and campaign communication among candidates at legislative elections. We construct a novel dataset that combines data on the amount and source of the donations received by all the candidates at the French Parliament with the content of their campaign manifestos, as well as information on the legislative activity of the elected politicians. We exploit an exogenous historical shock to corporate contributions to control for the endogeneity of donations and estimate their causal impact. Combining a difference-in-differences approach with computational text analysis, we show that receiving more corporate donations encourages candidates to advertise their local presence in their campaign communication. This effect is driven by small and local corporate donors, whose contributions are also found to encourage competitive races at the district level. Corporate donations do not systematically sway electoral discourse toward one ideological side or the other, but they lead candidates from marginal and extreme parties to moderate their rhetoric -- partly through their increased focus on local issues and partly through shifts in the policy topics they advertise. Finally, we find no impact of corporate donations on politicians' rhetoric once elected.

  • Incumbency Advantage in Multipartisan Elections (with Kevin Dano, Francesco Ferlenga, Vincenzo Galasso and Vincent Pons)

Abstract: We investigate the extent to which politicians in power manage to stay in power by restricting electoral competition and limiting the ability of other candidates to enter the race or to run good campaigns. We exploit close elections among 25,000 races, including both French legislative and local elections since 1958. These elections have the particularity of combining a plurality rule (hence, allowing elections to be “barely won” or “barely lost”) with a multiparty setting (hence, allowing multiple candidates to enter the race - or not). We use a regression discontinuity approach to estimate the causal impact of a close victory on candidate entry, campaign spending and electoral discourse in the next election. Preliminary results suggest that incumbency reduces the number of candidates from the same political orientation present on the next ballot. This may reflect the greater capacity of parties in power to rally ideologically-close competitors behind the winner or the weaker ability of parties in the opposition to form strong coalitions that would increase their chances of winning.