Negative voters? Electoral competition with loss-aversion

Ben Lockwood*, James Rockey

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)
56 Downloads (Pure)


This paper studies the effect of voter loss aversion in preferences over both candidate policy platforms and candidate valence on electoral competition. Loss-aversion over platforms leads to both platform rigidity and reduced platform polarisation, whereas loss-aversion over valence results in increased polarisation and the possibility of asymmetric equilibria with a self-fulfilling (dis)-advantage for the incumbent. The results are robust to a stochastic link between platforms and outcomes; they hold approximately for a small amount of noise. A testable implication of loss-aversion over platforms is that incumbents adjust less than challengers to shifts in voter preferences. We find some empirical support for this using data for elections to the US House of Representatives.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2619-2648
Number of pages30
JournalEconomic Journal
Issue number632
Early online date14 Apr 2020
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2020

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2020 Royal Economic Society. Published by Oxford University Press. All rights reserved. For permissions please contact

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Economics and Econometrics


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