Author's School

Graduate School of Arts & Sciences

Author's Department/Program

Political Science


English (en)

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Chair and Committee

Itai Sened


A great deal of contemporary social science rests on a basic, ``primitive'', principle that rational agents are motivated by a quest for marginal returns to investment of time, money, and other resources. In this manuscript we argue that an analogue fundamental principle guides much of modern political science, but has remained largely This manuscript sets out to unearth, reshape and polish this principle into what we term a marginal return theory of politics. We then apply this theory to the study of electioneering in Latin America, focusing on two main elements of vote seeking: the returns of specific votes and the returns of specific voters. We provide evidence that political parties are keenly aware of how differences in the returns of specific votes and specific voters affect their future plans to hold on top power. As such, these parties go out of their way to ensure that party exchanges prioritize the right votes being cast by the right voters.


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