Durable Coalitions and Communication: Public Versus Private Negotiations

Durable Coalitions and Communication: Public Versus Private Negotiations

By
David P. Baron, Renee Bowen, Salvatore Nunnari
Journal of Public Economics. December
2017, Vol. 156, Pages 1-13

We present a laboratory experiment to study the effect of communication on durable coalitions — coalitions that support the same allocation from one period to the next. We study a bargaining setting where the status quo policy is determined by the policy implemented in the previous period. Our main experimental treatment is the opportunity for subjects to negotiate with one another through unrestricted cheap-talk communication before a proposal is made and comes to a vote. We compare committees with no communication, committees where communication is public and messages are observed by all committee members, and committees where communication is private and any committee member can send a private message to any other committee member. We find that the opportunity to communicate has a significant impact on outcomes and coalitions. When communication is public, there are more universal coalitions and fewer majoritarian coalitions. With private communication, there are more majoritarian coalitions and fewer universal coalitions. With either type of communication coalitions occur more frequently and last longer than with no communication. The volume and content of communication is correlated with coalition type. These findings suggest a coordination role for communication that varies with the mode of communication.