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Incumbency as the Major Advantage: The Electoral Advantage for Parties of Incumbent Mayors


  • Ronny Freier


This paper provides empirical evidence on the party incumbency advantage in mayoral elections in Germany. Using a regression discontinuity design on a data set of about 25,000 elections, I estimate a causal incumbency effect of 38-40 percentage points in the probability of winning the next mayor election. The electoral advantage is larger for fulltime mayors, increasing in municipality size, independent of the specific partisanship of the mayor and constant between 1945 and 2010. Moreover, it increases with local spending hikes and it is independent of municipal debt. I also illustrate the causal dynamic effects of the incumbent status on distant future elections and therefore evaluate the global properties of the LATE estimate. Finally, I show that the total effect is due to an effect on the probability that the party participates in the next election (about 40% of the total effect) and an effect on the vote share (about 60%).

Suggested Citation

  • Ronny Freier, 2011. "Incumbency as the Major Advantage: The Electoral Advantage for Parties of Incumbent Mayors," Discussion Papers of DIW Berlin 1147, DIW Berlin, German Institute for Economic Research.
  • Handle: RePEc:diw:diwwpp:dp1147

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Fernando Ferreira & Joseph Gyourko, 2009. "Do Political Parties Matter? Evidence from U.S. Cities," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 124(1), pages 399-422.
    2. Henrik Jordahl, 2006. "An economic analysis of voting in Sweden," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 127(3), pages 251-265, June.
    3. Jens Hainmueller & Holger Lutz Kern, 2005. "Incumbency Effects in German and British Elections: A Quasi- Experimental Approach," Public Economics 0505009, EconWPA.
    4. John Ferejohn, 1986. "Incumbent performance and electoral control," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 50(1), pages 5-25, January.
    5. repec:cup:apsrev:v:106:y:2012:i:04:p:742-761_00 is not listed on IDEAS
    6. Lee, David S., 2008. "Randomized experiments from non-random selection in U.S. House elections," Journal of Econometrics, Elsevier, vol. 142(2), pages 675-697, February.
    7. Per Pettersson-Lidbom, 2008. "Do Parties Matter for Economic Outcomes? A Regression-Discontinuity Approach," Journal of the European Economic Association, MIT Press, vol. 6(5), pages 1037-1056, September.
    8. Brollo, Fernanda & Nannicini, Tommaso, 2012. "Tying Your Enemy's Hands in Close Races: The Politics of Federal Transfers in Brazil," American Political Science Review, Cambridge University Press, vol. 106(04), pages 742-761, November.
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    Cited by:

    1. Ade, Florian & Freier, Ronny, 2013. "Divided government versus incumbency externality effect—Quasi-experimental evidence on multiple voting decisions," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 64(C), pages 1-20.
    2. Borck, Rainald & Fossen, Frank M. & Freier, Ronny & Martin, Thorsten, 2015. "Race to the debt trap? — Spatial econometric evidence on debt in German municipalities," Regional Science and Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 53(C), pages 20-37.
    3. Jochimsen, Beate & Thomasius, Sebastian, 2014. "The perfect finance minister: Whom to appoint as finance minister to balance the budget," European Journal of Political Economy, Elsevier, vol. 34(C), pages 390-408.
    4. Schild, Christopher-Johannes, 2013. "Do female mayors make a difference? Evidence from Bavaria," FAU Discussion Papers in Economics 07/2013, Friedrich-Alexander University Erlangen-Nuremberg, Institute for Economics.
    5. Felix Arnold, 2015. "Turnout and Closeness: Evidence from 60 Years of Bavarian Mayoral Elections," Discussion Papers of DIW Berlin 1462, DIW Berlin, German Institute for Economic Research.
    6. Lopes da Fonseca, Mariana, 2015. "Identifying the source of incumbency advantage through an electoral reform," Center for European, Governance and Economic Development Research Discussion Papers 239, University of Goettingen, Department of Economics.
    7. Schötz, Lukas, 2016. "Mayor games in Bavaria: Self selection of local politicians is not influenced by constitutionally defined remuneration increases! Quasi-experimental evidence from Germany," Passauer Diskussionspapiere, Volkswirtschaftliche Reihe V-71-16, University of Passau, Faculty of Business and Economics.

    More about this item


    Mayor elections; regression discontinuity design party incumbency advantage;

    JEL classification:

    • H10 - Public Economics - - Structure and Scope of Government - - - General
    • H11 - Public Economics - - Structure and Scope of Government - - - Structure and Scope of Government
    • H77 - Public Economics - - State and Local Government; Intergovernmental Relations - - - Intergovernmental Relations; Federalism

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