Policy Responsiveness and Electoral Incentives: A (Re)assessment
Competitive democratic theory predicts that electoral factors enhance policy makers' responsiveness to public opinion. Yet findings on the effects of electoral incentives on policy responsiveness point in different directions and comparative research remains limited, lacking of a systematic evaluation. We draw on previous work, expand the range of electoral incentives, and re-assess their role in influencing policy responsiveness by using spending preferences. We provide extensive tests of an Electoral Vulnerability Hypothesis and an Electoral Proximity Hypothesis. Contra competitive democratic theory, time-series analysis from Canada, the United Kingdom and the United States in twenty policy domains and nine different indicators for electoral incentives finds limited support for these hypotheses. Our findings have implications for democracy and question the importance of electoral pressures in explaining policy responsiveness.
KeywordsPolicy responsiveness Electoral pressures Spending Public preferences
Several people provided helpful comments on this research and on older versions of this paper. Among others, I wish to thank Jim Adams, Shaun Bevan, Daniel Bischof, Mark Franklin, Sara Hobolt, Will Jennings, Laura Morales, Stuart Soroka, Rick Whitaker, and Chris Wlezien. Different versions of this paper were presented at the ECPR Joint Sessions 2013, ECPR General Conference 2013 and MPSA 2015, and I am grateful for the feedback received. Lastly, I wish to thank the editor and the two anonymous reviewers for helping me improve the final version of this research.
The research leading to these results has received funding from the European Research Council under the European Commission’s Seventh Framework Programme through a Starting Grant (FP7/2007-2013 Grant Agreement 284277) to the project “Democratic Responsiveness in Comparative Perspective: How Do Democratic Governments Respond to Different Expressions of Public Opinion? (ResponsiveGov)” (http://www.responsivegov.eu/) led by Prof Laura Morales.
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