Signaling to Voters? Conceptual problems of testing signaling models in legislative studies

Working paper


Many papers in legislative studies make implicit or explicit reference to signaling models, when explaining the behavior of Parliamentarians. However, the underlying logic of the game-theoretic approach is often insufficiently reflected in the discussion of arguments and hypotheses. In consequence, it is often unclear what exactly is tested when the hypotheses are confronted with data. Core problems are that it is often unclear a) Whether the underlying game is actually a signaling or a cheap talk game, b) What kind of equilibrium to expect (separating, semi-separating, pooling), and c) What are the necessary and sufficient conditions for the existence of equilibria and how to translate these into the empirical world. I will discuss the three problems based on examples and make suggestions on how to improve empirical work based on signaling models.