The Impact of Campaign Finance Rules on Candidate Selection and Electoral Outcomes: Evidence from France
This paper investigates the effects of campaign finance rules on electoral outcomes. In French departmental and municipal elections, candidates competing in districts above 9,000 inhabitants face spending limits and are eligible for public reimbursement if they obtain more than five percent of the votes. Using an RDD around the population threshold, we find that these rules increase competitiveness and benefit the runner-up of the previous race as well as new candidates, in departmental elections, while leaving the polarization and representativeness of the results unaffected. Incumbents are less likely to get reelected because they are less likely to run and obtain a lower vote share, conditional on running. These results appear to be driven by the reimbursement of campaign expenditures, not spending limits. We do not find such effects in municipal elections, which we attribute to the use of a proportional list system instead of plurality voting.
We thank Michèle Belot, Max Brès-Mariolle, Elias Dinas, Alexander Fouirnaies, Abel François, Andrea Ichino, Andrea Mattozzi, Pierre-Guillaume Méon, Pietro Panizza, James Snyder, and seminar participants at the EUI economics May forum, APSA, the Economics and Politics conference in Brussels, and the EUI micro-econometrics working group for their helpful comments and suggestions. We thank Sebastian Calonico, Matias Cattaneo, Max Farrell, and Rocio Titiunik for guiding us through the use of their RDD Stata package “rdrobust” and for sharing their upgrades; Julia Cagé and Laurent Bach for sharing their data on the 2001 municipal elections; Frédérique Dooghe for sharing the CNCCFPC data on campaign expenditures; Brigitte Hazart and Damien Aliaga at the Ministry of the Interior for addressing our questions on population data; and Erik Zolotoukhine and Lorraine Adam from the réseau Quételet for providing data on cantons' population. We are grateful to Salomé Drouard, Eric Dubois, and Thomas Taylor de Timberley, who provided outstanding research assistance. The views expressed herein are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Bureau of Economic Research.
I am the cofounder of a company in Europe, eXplain (https://explain.fr/).