We review a large formal literature on economic models of voting and electoral politics. We discuss two broad classes of model: those focusing on preference aggregation and those that look at elections as mechanisms of information aggregation. We also explore the role of elections in situations of asymmetric information, where politicians take hidden actions or are otherwise better informed about policy than voters are, and examine the role of elections in selection and as incentive mechanisms. In the section on models of preference aggregation, we focus on the themes of exogenous candidacy, policy commitment, and the role of valence attributes. For information aggregation, we analyze how different aspects of the institutional environment affect aggregation, focusing on the structure of elections—whether simultaneous or sequential—and the number of choices, as well as the motivations of voters. Finally, in considering models of asymmetric information, we describe how these models shed new light on incumbency effects, campaign spending, and the policy choices of politicians.


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  • Article Type: Review Article
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