Do Nonpartisan Programmatic Policies Have Partisan Electoral Effects? Evidence from Two Large Scale Experiments

Citation:

Kosuke Imai, Gary King, and Carlos Velasco Rivera. Forthcoming. “Do Nonpartisan Programmatic Policies Have Partisan Electoral Effects? Evidence from Two Large Scale Experiments.” Journal of Politics. Copy at http://j.mp/2o3NZgO
Paper371 KB
Supplementary Appendix2.65 MB
Do Nonpartisan Programmatic Policies Have Partisan Electoral Effects? Evidence from Two Large Scale Experiments

Abstract:

A vast literature demonstrates that voters around the world who benefit from their governments' discretionary spending cast more ballots for the incumbent party than those who do not benefit. But contrary to most theories of political accountability, some suggest that voters also reward incumbent parties for implementing "programmatic" spending legislation, over which incumbents have no discretion, and even when passed with support from all major parties. Why voters would attribute responsibility when none exists is unclear, as is why minority party legislators would approve of legislation that would cost them votes. We study the electoral effects of two large prominent programmatic policies that fit the ideal type especially well, with unusually large scale experiments that bring more evidence to bear on this question than has previously been possible. For the first policy, we design and implement ourselves one of the largest randomized social experiments ever. For the second policy, we reanalyze studies that used a large scale randomized experiment and a natural experiment to study the same question but came to opposite conclusions. Using corrected data and improved statistical methods, we show that the evidence from all analyses of both policies is consistent: programmatic policies have no effect on voter support for incumbents. We conclude by discussing how the many other studies in the literature may be interpreted in light of our results.

Last updated on 12/15/2018