The Runner-Up Effect
Exploiting regression discontinuity designs in Brazilian, Indian, and Canadian first-past-the-post elections, we document that second-place candidates are substantially more likely than close third-place candidates to run in, and win, subsequent elections. Since both candidates lost the election and had similar electoral performance, this is the effect of being labeled the runner-up. We explore the potential mechanisms for this runner-up effect, including selection into candidacy, heuristic behavior by political actors, and the runner-up obtaining an advantage from strategic coordination (being more likely to become a focal point). Selection into candidacy is unlikely to explain the effect on winning subsequent elections, and the weight of evidence suggests the effect is driven by strategic coordination. We find no effect of finishing in third-place versus fourth-place.
We thank Emmerich Davies, Sue Jia, Minkwang Jang, Cinthia Konichi, Maria Gao, Michelle Han, Susannah Scanlan, Mengshu Shen, Jason Tian, and Iris Yao for research assistance. This paper benefitted from suggestions by Daron Acemoglu, Eduardo Azevedo, Laurent Bouton, Robin Burgess, Micael Castanheira, David Lee, Marc Meredith, Joana Naritomi, Sri Navagarapu, Francesco Trebbi, Shing-Yi Wang, and seminar participants at Princeton, Wharton, Yale, Columbia, ISB, NYU, UCLA, CIFAR, PECO, and Warwick. We acknowledge funding from Wharton Global Initiatives, the Wharton Dean's Research Fund, the Center for the Advanced Study of India (U Penn), the Canadian Institute for Advanced Research, and the Program in Latin American Studies (Princeton). The views expressed herein are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Bureau of Economic Research.
Santosh Anagol & Thomas Fujiwara, 2016. "The Runner-Up Effect," Journal of Political Economy, vol 124(4), pages 927-991.