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: Political Economy, Electoral Competition, Campaign Communication

Working Papers:

Media coverage: VoxEU, 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 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.

Abstract: Do campaign contributions influence politicians? In this article, we study the impact of corporate donations on ideology and political discourse. We construct a novel dataset that combines the campaign manifestos issued by every candidate running for a seat in the French parliament with data on the amount and origin of their campaign contributions. We exploit an exogenous historical shock on corporate donations to estimate their causal impact on the content of campaign communication. Combining a difference-in-differences approach with computational text analysis, we show that receiving more donations from small and local corporate donors encourages candidates to advertise their local presence over national politics during the campaign. We also find evidence that donations lead candidates from extreme parties to moderate their rhetoricincluding shifts in the policy topics they advertise. Our findings may reflect a "quid-pro-quo effect" between donors and politicians, but they may also result from an "electoral effect": receiving expressive contributions from corporate donors affects the content of campaign messages because it changes candidates' perception of which issues matter most to voters. According to our findings, campaign finance regulations may alter the information made available to voters through their impact on candidates' rhetoric.

Work in Progress:

  • Alliances and Democratic Transitions in Multi-Party Systems - Evidence from French Elections (with Kevin Dano, Francesco Ferlenga, Vincenzo Galasso and Vincent Pons)