A Model of Focusing in Political Choice

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This paper develops a model of voters’ and politicians’ behavior based on the notion that voters focus disproportionately on and, hence, overweigh certain attributes of policies. We assume that policies have two attributes—resources devoted to two distinct issues (e.g., defense and education)—and that voters focus more on the attribute in which their options differ more. First, we consider exogenous policies and show that focusing polarizes the electorate. Second, we consider the endogenous supply of policies by politicians running for office and show that focusing leads to inefficiencies: voters that are more focused are more influential; distorted attention empowers social groups that are larger and more sensitive to changes on either issue; resources are channelled towards divisive issues. Finally, we show that augmenting classical models of electoral competition with focusing can contribute to explain puzzling stylized facts such as the inverse correlation between income inequality and redistribution.


Type of resource text
Date created July 23, 2021


Author Nunnari, Salvatore
Author Zapal, Jan
Organizer of meeting Acharya, Avidit
Organizer of meeting Callander, Steve
Organizer of meeting Eraslan, Hülya
Organizer of meeting Foarta, Dana
Organizer of meeting Palfrey, Thomas


Subject electoral competition
Subject issue salience
Subject bottom-up attention;
Subject behavioral political economy
Subject polarization
Subject income inequality;
Subject redistribution
Genre Text
Genre Working paper
Genre Grey literature

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Nunnari, S. and Zapal, J. (2022). A Model of Focusing in Political Choice. Stanford Digital Repository. Available at https://purl.stanford.edu/fq595jx0234


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