Anti-government protest (March 2015)

Anti-government protest (March 2015)

Local Electoral Responsiveness in Brazil

Over the past three decades, countries throughout the developing world have devolved power to directly elected local officials. Despite the increasing prevalence and importance of local elections in developing countries, however, we know little about how they function as mechanisms of democratic responsiveness.

In this project, which is based on my dissertation, I explore how local elections shape the policy-making process in Brazilian municipalities. To do so, I trace citizen-politicians interactions through the electoral process: What are citizens' preferences? How do citizens select and sanction local politicians? And how do local politicians respond to these choices?

The main argument is that information asymmetries at the local level create biased forms of responsiveness. Voters primarily reward incumbents for visible actions, such as public works projects and capital purchases, which creates incentives for politicians to prioritize these actions in office, even at the expense of citizens' preferred policies. Notably, these patterns hold even when voters select politicians who share their interests and preferences.

To support this argument, I employ a multi-method approach that combines survey analysis, natural experiments, natural language processing, and archival research. I draw on several original data sources from Brazil, including a database of more than 400 local election surveys, measures of class voting at the local level, and internal party documents.