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Do politicians’ preferences correspond to those of the voters? An investigation of political representation


  • Hanna Ågren


  • Matz Dahlberg
  • Eva Mörk


This paper investigates political representation by exploring the relationship between citizens' preferences and the preferences of their elected representatives. Using Swedish survey data, the empirical analysis shows that voters and politicians have significantly different preferences for local welfare services, implying that voters do not elect representatives with the same preferences as their own. The results show that when comparing a politician of a certain age, gender, educational level and marital status, with a voter with identical characteristics, the politician still has preferences for a significantly higher level of spending on the locally provided services. Hence, our results indicate that the representation of different socio-economic groups does not necessarily lead to a larger degree of representation of these groups' agendas. Moreover, we find the observed difference to be largest for the least salient expenditure item. We do, however, not find any evidence for differences in preferences between the two groups being associated with a decline in trust for politicians among voters. Copyright Springer Science + Business Media B.V. 2007

Suggested Citation

  • Hanna Ågren & Matz Dahlberg & Eva Mörk, 2007. "Do politicians’ preferences correspond to those of the voters? An investigation of political representation," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 130(1), pages 137-162, January.
  • Handle: RePEc:kap:pubcho:v:130:y:2007:i:1:p:137-162
    DOI: 10.1007/s11127-006-9077-1

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Timothy Besley & Anne Case, 2003. "Political Institutions and Policy Choices: Evidence from the United States," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 41(1), pages 7-73, March.
    2. Hanna Ågren & Matz Dahlberg & Eva Mörk, 2007. "Do politicians’ preferences correspond to those of the voters? An investigation of political representation," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 130(1), pages 137-162, January.
    3. Bergstrom, Theodore C & Rubinfeld, Daniel L & Shapiro, Perry, 1982. "Micro-Based Estimates of Demand Functions for Local School Expenditures," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 50(5), pages 1183-1205, September.
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    6. Timothy Besley & Stephen Coate, 1997. "An Economic Model of Representative Democracy," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 112(1), pages 85-114.
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    Cited by:

    1. Reiner Eichenberger & David Stadelmann & Marco Portmann, 2012. "A comparative analysis of the voting behavior of constituents and their representatives for public debts," Constitutional Political Economy, Springer, vol. 23(3), pages 244-260, September.
    2. Svaleryd, Helena, 2009. "Women's representation and public spending," European Journal of Political Economy, Elsevier, vol. 25(2), pages 186-198, June.
    3. Jakobsson, Niklas, 2009. "Why do you want lower taxes? Preferences regarding municipal income tax rates," Working Papers in Economics 345, University of Gothenburg, Department of Economics.
    4. Stadelmann David & Portmann Marco & Eichenberger Reiner, 2016. "How Lobbying Affects Representation: Results for Majority-Elected Politicians," The B.E. Journal of Economic Analysis & Policy, De Gruyter, vol. 16(4), pages 1-7, October.
    5. Enriqueta Aragonès & Santiago Sánchez-Pagés, 2014. "Incumbency (dis)advantage when citizens can propose Abstract:This paper analyses the problem that an incumbent faces during the legislature when deciding how to react to citizen proposals such as the ," UB Economics Working Papers 2014/314, Universitat de Barcelona, Facultat d'Economia i Empresa, UB Economics.
    6. Österholm, Pär, 2004. "Estimating the Relationship between Age Structure and GDP in the OECD Using Panel Cointegration Methods," Working Paper Series 2004:13, Uppsala University, Department of Economics.
    7. Revelli Federico & Tovmo Per, 2006. "Declared vs. revealed yardstick competition:Local government efficiency in Norway," Department of Economics and Statistics Cognetti de Martiis. Working Papers 200605, University of Turin.
    8. Thomas Aronsson & Sören Blomquist, 2008. "Redistribution and Provision of Public Goods in an Economic Federation," Journal of Public Economic Theory, Association for Public Economic Theory, vol. 10(1), pages 125-143, February.
    9. Stadelmann, David & Portmann, Marco & Eichenberger, Reiner, 2015. "Military careers of politicians matter for national security policy," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 116(C), pages 142-156.
    10. Hanna Ågren & Matz Dahlberg & Eva Mörk, 2007. "Do politicians’ preferences correspond to those of the voters? An investigation of political representation," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 130(1), pages 137-162, January.
    11. Lunder, Trond Erik, 2016. "Between centralized and decentralized welfare policy: Have national guidelines constrained the influence of local preferences?," European Journal of Political Economy, Elsevier, vol. 41(C), pages 1-13.
    12. Sören Blomquist & Vidar Christiansen, 2008. "Taxation and Heterogeneous Preferences," FinanzArchiv: Public Finance Analysis, Mohr Siebeck, Tübingen, vol. 64(2), pages 218-244, June.
    13. Mörk, Eva & Ahlin, Åsa, 2007. "Effects of decentralization on school resources: Sweden 1989-2002," Working Paper Series 2007:9, Uppsala University, Department of Economics.
    14. Aragonès, Enriqueta & Sánchez-Pagés, Santiago, 2010. "The disadvantage of winning an election," SIRE Discussion Papers 2010-21, Scottish Institute for Research in Economics (SIRE).
    15. Ahlin, Åsa & Mörk, Eva, 2008. "Effects of decentralization on school resources," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 27(3), pages 276-284, June.
    16. Önder, Ali Sina & Portmann, Marco & Stadelmann, David, 2015. "No Place like Home: Opinion Formation with Homophily and Implications for Policy Decisions," Working Paper Series, Center for Fiscal Studies 2015:4, Uppsala University, Department of Economics.
    17. Fredrik Carlsson & Mitesh Kataria & Elina Lampi, 2011. "Do EPA Administrators Recommend Environmental Policies That Citizens Want?," Land Economics, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 87(1), pages 60-74.
    18. Nordin, Mattias, 2009. "The effect of information on voting behavior," Working Paper Series 2009:14, Uppsala University, Department of Economics.

    More about this item


    Political representation; Local public services; Survey data; Voters’ and politicians' preferences;

    JEL classification:

    • C35 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Multiple or Simultaneous Equation Models; Multiple Variables - - - Discrete Regression and Qualitative Choice Models; Discrete Regressors; Proportions
    • H40 - Public Economics - - Publicly Provided Goods - - - General
    • H72 - Public Economics - - State and Local Government; Intergovernmental Relations - - - State and Local Budget and Expenditures


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