Individuals vary in how intensely they care about political outcomes. Despite attention to intensity in studies of representation and public opinion, the study of elections has not yet considered strategic dynamics of intensity. I present a theory that brings intensity to electoral competition. I investigate the pre-election actions of voters and the response of candidates through a game-theoretic model. Because intensity is unobserved and subject to misrepresentation, voters communicate intensity through costly political action. Candidates respond to voter actions by sometimes proposing policy opposed by a low-intensity majority. The theory suggests when and why citizens choose costly action and expression, describes why citizens might prefer candidates with negative traits such as history of misconduct, indicates when majoritarian systems might implement nonmajoritarian policy and that costly political action can be welfare-enhancing, and may help scholars reason about communication from voters to candidates.
Professor Seth J. Hill is an Associate Professor at the Department of Political Science, University of California, San Diego. He studies how citizens motivate politician behavior. His teaching interests include American Politics and political methodology. His published work has appeared in the American Journal of Political Science, American Political Science Review, Journal of Politics, World Politics, among others.