Accountability and Democratic Responsiveness

"Economic performance, individual evaluations, and the vote: investigating the causal mechanism." (with Michael Becher), in The Journal of Politics, 75 (4), October 2013, Pp. 968–979)

This article examines the mechanism of electoral accountability that provides the predominant normative motivation for the literature on economic voting. Building on recent advances in the statistical analysis of causal mechanisms, we jointly estimate the relationship between objective macroeconomic performance, individual economic evaluations, and the incumbent vote in 151 elections in 18 established democracies. We find that the real economy matters for economic evaluations and that evaluations matter for vote choice - conditional on political institutions. An improvement (decline) of economic performance leads to an increase (decrease) in positive economic evaluations among voters that translates into an increase (decrease) in the support for the party of the chief executive. This chain of accountability is stronger in an institutional context where policy-making power is concentrated rather than dispersed.

Replication files are available here.

"Economic & Political Inequality in Modern Democracies: Differential Responsiveness to the Policy Preferences of Economic Classes." (with Zoe Lefkofridi) in EUI Working Papers: Max Weber Red Number Series 2014/13. Florence: European University Institute.

Democratic theory does not require the government just to respond to citizens’ preferences for policy but in doing so, to treat all citizens as political equals. It follows that, in democracies, government policy should respond equally to different economic classes: if the policy preferences of the rich and the poor differ, then policy should reflect no less the preferences of the poor than those of the rich. Whether this is indeed happens becomes all the more relevant in the context of the current financial and economic crisis. In Europe, policy solutions to the crisis, namely austerity, including budget and wage cuts that hurt the middle and lower classes, have been met with fierce public resistance. Popular dissatisfaction with policy raises the questions: Does policy respond to public attitudes towards

policies? To which sub-constituency’s preferences does government policy respond? Do policy outputs reflect the preferences and attitudes of the rich rather than low-income citizens? To answer these questions, we introduce a new data set covering policy and public opinion across a range of issues, countries, and times. We first examine variation in public attitudes across 15 policy issues throughout time. We focus on whether citizens’ attitudes towards income inequality, their preferences for government spending in key policy areas and their attitudes towards policy issues differ according to income. Second, we investigate whether government responsiveness differs across income groups over time and present new evidence of policy responsiveness and inequality in Europe.