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.

Previously presented at PELA (Yale 2017), APSA (2016), MPSA (2016), REPAL (MIT 2016), and FGV-Rio (2015). Contact me for the latest version.

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 disproportionately provides voters information about visible actions and outcomes. This leads voters to reward incumbents for highly 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. 

Previously presented at APSA (2017), MPSA (2017), and the Kellogg Institute Work-in-Progress Series (2017). Contact me for the latest version.

Size and Participatory Democracy: Evidence from Brazil's Municipal Health Councils     

How does local context condition the implementation of top-down participatory initiatives? Consistent with a long tradition of research linking size and democracy, I find that size (the population of a political jurisdiction) shapes how actors adapt participatory institutions to fit local contexts. Drawing on an original database of participatory health councils in Brazil, I find that councils in larger municipalities are more internally complex and autonomous from local governments than those in smaller municipalities, but are also less inclusive with regards to gender and class. These patterns shed light on the challenges to scaling up direct citizen participation, and suggest that research on the consequences of participatory institutions should pay more attention to heterogeneity across contexts.

Contact me for the latest version.