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Ideological polarization and government debt

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JournalInternational tax and public finance
DateAccepted/In press - 5 Aug 2021
DatePublished (current) - 30 Aug 2021
Number of pages23
Original languageEnglish


Models of strategic debt predict that public debt increases with polarization, measured by the ideological distance between the government and its likely successor. Conversely if voters are both short-termist and also more likely to switch their vote for parties offering higher spending and public good provision when the electorate is ideologically concentrated, then debt can fall with polarization, measured by dispersion of ideological preferences in the electorate. Using time-varying polarization measures generated from ideology data from party manifestos, we find a sizable and statistically significant negative association between debt levels in OECD countries and ideological polarization in the electorate.

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