What Should We Do About Influential Opinion Leaders – Expert Biases & Election Outcomes

Abstract (via Steiner & Stewart)

We present a simple model of elections in which experts with special interests endorse can didates and endorsements are observed by the voters. We show that the equilibrium election outcome is biased towards the experts’ interests even though voters know the distribution of expert interests and account for it when evaluating endorsements. Expert inuence is fully decentralized in the sense that individual experts have no incentive to exert influence. The effect arises when some agents prefer, ceteris paribus, to support the winning candidate and when experts are much better informed about the state of the world than are voters.

Introduction (via Steiner and Stewart)

In the lead up to elections, many experts make public recommendations about which candidate to vote for. Do the experts’ interests influence mass opinion and behavior? We show that expert endorsements can have a large eff ect on election outcomes, biasing the results toward their own interests. Our model features Bayesian voters who know the distribution of expert biases and a large number of experts who have negligible individual influence. The e ect arises as a result of herding multiplied through a coordination motive. We show that the total e ect can be large even if the direct herding e ffect small.

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