The Politics of Visibility: Local Electoral Responsiveness in Brazil
Over the past three decades, countries throughout the developing world have devolved power to directly elected local officials. Yet, despite the increasing prevalence and importance of local elections in developing countries, we know little about how they work.
This project explores how local elections shape the policy-making process in Brazil - one of the most decentralized countries in the world. Specifically, I trace interactions between citizens and politicians through the electoral process: What are citizens' preferences? Do citizens select and sanction local politicians in ways that are consistent with their preferences? And how do local politicians respond to these choices?
The main finding is that information asymmetries lead citizens to reward mayors for visible actions, even when those actions are at odds with citizens' stated preferences. This conclusion has broader implications for debates about decentralization, democratic representation, and public service provision in the global south.
I support these claims with a multi-method research design that combines survey analysis, natural experiments, semi-automated text analysis, interviews, and archival research.