Do politicians use words without actions in election years? Extant literature has long been discussed whether politicians increase public expenditure in election years to pander to myopic voters for reelection motives. However, politicians might also propose a bigger public project to persuade voters in election years without implementing it. Such distortion in the policymaking process is not easily detectable with the data of realized policies, e.g. with public expenditure data.
This study investigates words without actions using politicians' statements in the assembly minutes and deploy dictionary methods and machine learning techniques. We collect 47 prefectural assemblies' minutes in Japan, from 2001 to 2017, which include 10,372 politicians' statements.
We find that politicians' statements follow election cycles: during the election years, politicians temporarily change their statements (e.g., increasing the stated amount of money in suggestive contexts and increasing their mentions of specific locations) in the budget-making process. The effects are larger for those who won a narrower election. We then discuss whether these statement changes involve policy changes, but we find in election years (1) the amount of stated money increases much more than the actual budget, (2) their statements become less consistent with the realized budget both in short- and middle-run, and (3) their effort does not increase. We also find that these changes in words without actions are associated with higher chances of winning in the next election, implying that politicians lure voters with attractive statements without changing their policies.