We show that credit rating agencies can have a significant effect on election outcomes. We identify these effects by exploiting exogenous variation in municipal bond ratings due to Moody’s recalibration of its scale in 2010. We find that incumbent politicians in upgraded municipalities experience an increase in their likelihood of reelection and their vote shares. These rating upgrades improve voters’ opinions about the incumbent and produce positive wealth effects through voters’ holdings of local municipal bonds. In addition, rating upgrades cause an expansion of local governments’ debt capacity that allows the incumbent to increase spending and improve local economic conditions.

Document Type

Research Paper

Publication Date


Working Paper Number

Working Paper 19

Notes/Citation Information

JEL classification: D72, G24, H74