Linkage Switches in Local Elections: Evidence from the Workers’ Party in Brazil

How do politicians from programmatic parties govern when their programmatic commitments are inconsistent with voters' expectations? This paper demonstrates that anticipated electoral pressures can lead politicians from programmatic parties to resemble those from non-programmatic parties. When politicians from programmatic parties believe that voters will evaluate their performance using non-programmatic criteria, they engage in linkage switches: they initially campaign on programmatic platforms, but prioritize non-programmatic actions in office. I support this claim with evidence from Brazilian municipalities (1996-2012), where the Workers' Party (PT) employed programmatic appeals in an otherwise non-programmatic political context. Using a regression discontinuity design and the semi-automated text analysis of campaign platforms, I demonstrate that PT mayors initially ran on programmatic platforms, but once in office, they responded to anticipated electoral pressures by prioritizing actions that were inconsistent with the party's programmatic orientation.

[published in Comparative Political Studies] [last working paper]

Visibility and Local Electoral Accountability

How do voters use local elections to hold politicians accountable in decentralized contexts? Contrary to the common assumption that proximity helps citizens learn about local politicians' actions through first-hand observation, I suggest that proximity disproportionately provides citizens information about visible actions. Voters act on this information and reward incumbents for spending on highly visible actions, such as infrastructure projects and capital purchases, but not actions that align with their stated preferences, such as 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.

[latest version] (under review)

Shared Class as an Electoral Heuristic

Do voters use a candidate's class as an electoral heuristic? And if so, how? Drawing on observational and experimental evidence from Brazil's local elections (2004-2016), I provide evidence that voters use shared class to draw inferences about a candidate's type. Candidates from different classes receive similar levels of overall support, but they receive disproportionate support from voters who share their class. The mechanisms underlying this finding vary by a voter's relative class position: upper-class voters use shared class to draw inferences about a candidate's quality, trustworthiness, and distributive commitments, but lower-class voters only use shared class to draw inferences about a candidate's trustworthiness and distributive commitments.

[email for latest version] (under review)

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

How does the size of a community matter for the performance of participatory governance institutions (PGIs)? This paper draws on evidence from Brazil's municipal health councils to demonstrate that a single top-down participatory reform can create institutions with different levels of capacity and inclusion across different size contexts. It provides evidence that councils in larger municipalities have more capacity to influence the policymaking process than those in smaller municipalities, but tend to be less inclusive with regards to gender and class. These patterns shed light on the challenges to scaling up direct citizen participation and have broader implications for studying the consequences of PGIs.

[email for latest version]

The Politics of Visibility: Local Elections and Democratic Representation in Brazil (Book Project)

Brazil has made impressive gains in expanding access to public services over the past two decades, but citizens continue to be dissatisfied with the quality of those services – an anger that sparked destabilizing protests in 2013. In my book manuscript, I explore how Brazil’s unique combination of political, fiscal, and administrative decentralization has contributed to the poor quality of public services in the country. Drawing on normative theories of democratic representation, I map out several distinct mechanisms through which local elections might foster responsiveness. Then, I test those mechanisms using a mix of quantitative and qualitative approaches. I find that different forms of representation interact in ways that push politicians to adopt policies that are inconsistent with citizens’ expressed preferences in Brazil’s local elections.

(manuscript in progress)