Lies, damned lies, and political campaigns

Steven Callander, Simon Wilkie

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

74 Citations (Scopus)


Despite a pervasive presence in politics, lying has not traditionally played a role in formal models of elections. In this paper we develop a model that allows candidates in the campaign stage to misrepresent their policy intentions if elected to office, and in which the willingness to lie varies across candidates. We find that candidates more willing to lie are favored, but that this advantage is limited by the electoral mechanism and to such an extent that more honest candidates win a significant fraction of elections. Most notably, the possibility that some candidates lie more than others affects the behavior of all candidates, changing the nature of political campaigns in an empirically consistent manner. This effect also implies that misleading conclusions will be drawn if homogeneous candidate honesty is assumed.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)262-286
Number of pages25
JournalGames and Economic Behavior
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2007
Externally publishedYes


  • Electoral competition
  • Lying
  • Signaling games

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