Caroline Le Pennec-Çaldichoury

Department of Applied Economics

HEC Montréal

I am an Assistant Professor in the Department of Applied Economics at HEC Montréal. I received a PhD in Economics from UC Berkeley in 2020.

I am also a researcher at the Center for the Study of Democratic Citizenship and an affiliate of the Monash SoDa Labs.

Research interests: Applied Microeconomics, Political Economy, Electoral Competition, Campaign Communication

Working Papers:

Media coverage: VoxEU, Le Point, BBC, Scientific American, Mint, Poynter, Fast Company, Spectrum News

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.

Abstract: In many democracies, individual candidates running for parliamentary seats face policy constraints. They reap benefits from affiliating with national parties but the party’s national platform complicates their ability to compete on policy issues at the local level. In multistage elections, candidates’ positions are also constrained by policy announcements made earlier in the campaign. I use computational text analysis on 30,000 candidate manifestos from two-round French elections to show how politicians work within these constraints, toeing the party line and sticking to their platform yet strategically adjusting their campaign communication to persuade voters by advertising neutral non-policy issues. This moderation of electoral discourse predicts better performance in office and therefore may provide voters with information that matters for representation.

A previous version of this paper was circulated under the title "Strategic Campaign Communication: Evidence from 30,000 Candidate Manifestos", SoDa Laboratories Working Paper Series No. 2020-05, Monash Business School.

Abstract: Do campaign finance regulations influence politicians? We study the effects of a French ban on corporate donations passed in 1995. We use a difference-in-differences approach and a novel dataset combining the campaign manifestos issued by every candidate running for a seat in the French parliament with detailed data on their campaign contributions. We show that banning corporate donations discourages candidates from advertising their local presence during the campaign, as well as economic issues. The ban also leads candidates from non-mainstream parties to use more polarized language. These findings suggest that private donors shape politicians' topics of interest, and that campaign nance reforms may affect the information made available to voters through their impact on candidates' rhetoric.

Abstract: In multi-party systems, incumbency advantage and coordination failure may both facilitate the (re)election of bad politicians. Using an RDD in French two-round elections, we ask whether these forces compound each other. We find that close winners are more likely to run again and win the next election by 33 and 25pp. Incumbents personalize their campaign communication more and face fewer ideologically close competitors, revealing that parties coordinate more effectively on the winning side than on the losing side. Incumbents and candidates qualified for the runoff also rally new voters, indicating that better voter coordination also contributes to their future success.

Work in Progress:

  • Keep your Enemies Closer: Strategic Candidate Adjustments in U.S. and French Elections (with Rafael Di Tella, Randy Kotti and Vincent Pons)