Programmatic Parties and Local Politics
Do programmatic parties matter at the local level? This paper demonstrates that anticipated electoral pressures can lead local politicians from programmatic parties to resemble those from non-programmatic parties. Specifically, I show that when politicians expect to be sanctioned for visible actions, this can lead to linkage switches, where politicians who campaign using programmatic strategies prioritize non-programmatic strategies in office. I support this argument with evidence from Brazil, where the Workers' Party (PT) stands out as a strong, programmatic party in an otherwise weak and non-programmatic party system. Using a regression discontinuity design, I demonstrate that PT mayors prioritize visible policies in office, even when those policies are inconsistent with the party's programmatic orientation. The semi-automated text analysis of campaign platforms shows that PT candidates initially campaign on programmatic appeals, but emphasize pork when seeking re-election; and internal party documents illustrate that party leaders are cognizant of the tensions between the party’s programmatic and electoral goals.
Visibility and Local Electoral Accountability
Recent waves of decentralization and local democratization reforms have placed unprecedented power in the hands of directly elected local governments in developing countries, but it remains unclear how citizens use local elections to hold politicians accountable. Contrary to the expectation that citizens are more informed at the local level, I show that proximity only provides voters access to information about visible actions and outcomes. This leads voters to reward incumbents for visible actions, such as infrastructure projects and capital purchases, but not actions that align with their stated preferences, including spending on health care and education. I support this claim with evidence from Brazilian municipalities, including fine-grained budgetary data, electoral results from 2000-2012, and an original database of municipal election surveys.
(email for latest version)
Who Punishes Corrupt Politicians? Educational Attainment and Electoral Accountability
When do voters punish corrupt politicians? Recent research has identified several contextual factors that determine whether voters sanction corrupt incumbents, but largely neglects variation in individuals' beliefs about - and responses to - corruption. This paper provides evidence that educational attainment shapes individuals' beliefs about corruption and conditions how they respond to corruption revelations. Drawing on survey data, randomized corruption audits in Brazilian municipalities from 2003-2009, and disaggregated electoral returns, I find that: (1) low-education voters are more likely to believe all politicians are corrupt and express more willingness to tolerate corruption in exchange for competence; (2) low-education voters are less likely to punish incumbents for corruption; and (3) low-education voters are more willing to tolerate corruption in return for visible expenditures. These interactions between education and electoral accountability provide support for the main theoretical claim: educational attainment plays an important and under-appreciated role in shaping citizens' beliefs about - and responses to - corruption.