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The lesser evil: Executive accountability with partisan supporters


  • Gerard Padró i Miquel
  • Erik Snowberg


We develop a model of electoral accountability with primaries. Prior to the general election, the supporters of each of two parties decide which candidates to nominate. We show that supporters suffer from a fundamental tension: while they want politicians who will faithfully implement the party’s agenda in office, they need politicians who can win elections. Accountability to supporters fails when supporters fear that by punishing or rewarding their incumbent for her loyalty or lack thereof, they unintentionally increase the electoral prospects of the opposing party. Therefore, accountability decreases with the importance that supporters assign to the elections, and it breaks down in two cases. First, a popular incumbent safely defects as she knows she will be re-nominated. Second, an unpopular incumbent defects because she knows she will be dismissed even if she follows the party line. These behaviors are labeled impunity and damnation, respectively, and are illustrated with case studies.

Suggested Citation

  • Gerard Padró i Miquel & Erik Snowberg, 2012. "The lesser evil: Executive accountability with partisan supporters," Journal of Theoretical Politics, , vol. 24(1), pages 19-45, January.
  • Handle: RePEc:sae:jothpo:v:24:y:2012:i:1:p:19-45

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Crès, Hervé & Tvede, Mich, 2009. "Production in incomplete markets: Expectations matter for political stability," Journal of Mathematical Economics, Elsevier, vol. 45(3-4), pages 212-222, March.
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    4. Caplin, Andrew & Nalebuff, Barry, 1991. "Aggregation and Social Choice: A Mean Voter Theorem," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 59(1), pages 1-23, January.
    5. Anthony Downs, 1957. "An Economic Theory of Political Action in a Democracy," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 65, pages 135-135.
    6. Ferejohn, John A. & Grether, David M., 1974. "On a class of rational social decision procedures," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 8(4), pages 471-482, August.
    7. Caplin, Andrew S & Nalebuff, Barry J, 1988. "On 64%-Majority Rule," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 56(4), pages 787-814, July.
    8. Hervé Crès & Mich Tvede, 2005. "Portfolio Diversification and Internalization of Production Externalities through Majority Voting," Sciences Po publications 816/2005, Sciences Po.
    9. Hervé Crès & Mich Tvede, 2005. "Portfolio Diversification and Internalization of Production Externalities through Majority Voting," Working Papers hal-00587205, HAL.
    10. Grandmont, Jean-Michel, 1978. "Intermediate Preferences and the Majority Rule," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 46(2), pages 317-330, March.
    11. Hervé Crès & Mich Tvede, 2005. "Portfolio Diversification and Internalization of Production Externalities through Majority Voting," Working Papers hal-01065579, HAL.
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    Cited by:

    1. Benny Geys & Jan Vermeir, 2014. "Party Cues In Elections Under Multilevel Governance: Theory And Evidence From Us States," Journal of the European Economic Association, European Economic Association, vol. 12(4), pages 1029-1058, August.


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