Three essays in political economy
Sprick Schuster, Steven David
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"Delivering the Vote: The Political Effect of Free Mail Delivery in Early Twentieth Century America(with Elisabeth Perlman)", examines the effect of Rural Free Delivery on the behavior of voters and elected officials. Using a panel dataset covering the years surrounding the roll-out of RFD, and a set of instrumental variables to address the endogenous allocation of routes, we find that voters in communities receiving more routes vote more frequently, spread their votes more widely across candidates, and vote for smaller parties. Additionally, we find evidence of political shifts in elected officials, with representatives voting more in line with rural communities. "Duverger's Law and Strategic Voting: an Empirical Test Using Florida's Elimination of Primary Runoff Elections", provides evidence from an empirical test of Duverger's Law and strategic voting, utilizing the 2001 decision by the state of Florida to eliminate runoffs in primary elections. Using a differences-in-differences specification, I find that while changes in voting behavior in Florida are consistent with predictions of Duverger's Law and models of strategic voting, the measured effects are much smaller than findings in other settings. I provide evidence that this may be due to low turnout in primary elections, which may induce two-candidate equilibria in runoff elections. "What We Talk About When We Talk About Campaign Spending" utilizes the 2012 American National Election Survey, which asked about voter intent before the election and actual voting behavior after, and candidate disbursement data which allows me to track candidate spending throughout the campaign, I can determine the effect of candidate spending on individual voting behavior. I find that spending by candidates on advertising and campaign events increases the likelihood that voters will change their preferences in favor of that candidate. I also find that using aggregate candidate spending to measure the causal effect of incumbent and challenger spending could lead to biased estimates, and could be driving previous results that have found incumbent spending to be less effective than challenger spending.