What Shapes Our Electoral Choices
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What Shapes Our Electoral Choices

SALVATORE NUNNARI HAS OBTAINED A ERC STARTING GRANT WITH A RESEARCH PROJECT IN BEHAVIORAL POLITICAL ECONOMY WHICH INVESTIGATES HOW PEOPLE'S PREFERENCES AND COGNITIVE ABILITIES AFFECT THEIR ELECTORAL CHOICES AND, HOW POLITICIANS REACT TO VOTERS' BEHAVIORAL FACTORS AND UNSTABLE PREFERENCES

In the last 10 years, seismic electoral shifts have occurred throughout Europe, but they don’t display a clear, common trend. If the rise of populist parties and the intensification of ideological conflict and polarization are the most striking features, in some cases right-wing movements emerge as winners, in other cases left-wing ones, while in countries heavily affected by the Great Recession, such as Ireland and Portugal, populism didn’t take root at all. Salvatore Nunnari, an Assistant Professor at Bocconi’s Department of Economics, obtained a ERC Starting Grant for POPULIZATION (Behavioral Foundations of Populism and Polarization), a research project meant to explain these political changes with the tools of behavioral political economy, using a mixed methodology that includes both theoretical models and an original dataset.
 
«I want to study, on the one side, how people’s preferences and cognitive abilities affect their electoral choices and, on the other, how politicians react to voters’ behavioral factors and unstable preferences», Prof. Nunnari says.
 
In order to reach the first goal, he will set up and maintain for at least three years a European Preferences and Cognition Dataset (EPCD) surveying around 20,000 European citizens from six countries: Italy, France, Germany, Poland, Spain, and the UK. «I will collect, and monitor through time, behavioral data about people’s preferences about uncertainty, patience, trust, attitudes towards punishing and rewarding others, and how they collect and process information among the rest – precious information that, up to now, has always been collected in laboratory settings and for small groups of homogenous participants, often university students. This will allow me to follow the same individuals over an extended period of time, thus drawing a dynamic picture, with the aim to understand whether heterogeneity in behavioral factors correlates with political behavior and whether major public events and personal history affect behavioral factors».
 
The second part of the project will study politicians’ behavior. «In times of low-cost big data representatives and candidates could easily collect data on their voters», Prof. Nunnari explains, «and I want to understand whether they are able to leverage on voters’ behavioral characteristics to reach their own electoral goals, not necessarily aligned with general welfare».

by Fabio Todesco

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