Wouldn't we all love to have competent politicians? Vincenzo Galasso and Tommaso Nannicini show you how to get them. First the theory: suppose you care about having people in power who are experts and hard-workers and favor your policy choices. Parties allocate candidates to districts, knowing that some districts will be more contested than others. For district that are safe bets, they will allocate relatively incompetent candidates. In toss-ups, the best candidates will compete.
Does this really happen? Galasso and Nannicini also look at data. They used parliament elections in Italy, where they know a fair bit about each elected candidate, including education, past appointments, pre-election income and absenteeism. And these variable vary in expected ways with the safeness of the districts, as measure by previous election margins. Also, they find that left-wing and right-wing candidates look very similar to each other in close elections, whereas they differ much in safe elections, following predictable patterns: right-wing candidates have private sector experience, are late starters in politics and are more educated, left-wing ones are have more local political experience, are more female and are older.
In conclusion, as a voter you should vote against sure winners in order to attract better candidates. And these candidates will more likely be centrists.