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Title: Local Electoral Responsiveness in Brazil
Authors: Johannessen, Peter Gregory
Advisors: Yashar, Deborah J
Contributors: Politics Department
Subjects: Political science
Issue Date: 2017
Publisher: Princeton, NJ : Princeton University
Abstract: Despite the increasing prevalence and importance of local elections in developing countries, we know little about how they function as mechanisms of democratic responsiveness. This dissertation addresses this gap in the literature by exploring how local elections shape the policy-making process in Brazilian municipalities. Specifically, I ask three interrelated questions: What are citizens' preferences? How do citizens select and sanction local politicians? And how do local politicians respond to these choices? Drawing on original evidence from Brazil, I advance three parallel arguments: First, I claim that local politics have distributive stakes in contexts with high levels of administrative and fiscal decentralization. In Brazil, voters' preferences vary as much by class as by context, which means that local electorates have heterogeneous preferences. These disagreements matter for electoral behavior: in open elections, voters prefer candidates who share their class, who they expect will be more responsive to their preferences. Second, I demonstrate that voters reward incumbents for their actions, but only for visible actions, such as public works projects and government purchases. I find no evidence that voters reward incumbents for actions that align with their stated preferences, including spending on health and education. Thus, whereas many studies assume that proximity facilitates electoral accountability by increasing access to information, I claim that proximity is a double-edged sword: it increases access to information, but only information about visible actions. And finally, I find that sanctions are more important than selection for electoral responsiveness. There is no evidence that politicians selected by voters from different classes act in the interest of those who elected them, or that politicians with different class backgrounds pursue different policies in office. But, I find strong evidence that politicians anticipate and respond to voters' retrospective evaluations. Even politicians with strong ideological commitments are willing to abandon campaign promises in response to anticipated electoral sanctions. However, this results in a biased form of responsiveness because voters encourage politicians to prioritize visible actions, rather than actions that are consistent with their preferences.
Alternate format: The Mudd Manuscript Library retains one bound copy of each dissertation. Search for these copies in the library's main catalog:
Type of Material: Academic dissertations (Ph.D.)
Language: en
Appears in Collections:Politics

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