Politicians’ Christmas Lottery Windfall

Christmas randomness can pay off for politicians, implies this new study:

Politicians’ Luck of the Draw: Evidence from the Spanish Christmas Lottery,” Manuel Bagues and Berta Esteve-Volart, FEDEA Working Paper #2011/01, January 2011. The authors, at Universidad Carlos III and FEDEA, Madrid, Spain and at York University, Toronto, Canada, explain:

“It is well known that incumbent politicians tend to receive more votes when economic conditions are good. In this paper we explore the source of this correlation, exploiting the exceptional evidence provided by the Spanish Christmas Lottery. This is a unique lottery: 75% of Spaniards play, sharing tickets, and every year at Christmas 0.3% of the Spanish GDP is at stake…. We find that incumbents receive significantly more votes in winning provinces. Given that individuals are well aware of the random nature of the shock, it is unlikely that this effect is due to voters wrongly attributing economic conditions to the government. Moreover, information from surveys from the same period shows that Christmas Lottery prizes increase the propensity to vote for the incumbent, but they do not affect respondents’ assessment of the government. The evidence is consistent with a temporary increase in happiness making voters more lenient toward the incumbent, or with a stronger preference for the status quo.”

(Thanks to investigator Miguel Aragones for bringing this to our attention.)