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Preferential Voting, Accountability and Promotions into Political Power: Evidence from Sweden

  • Folke, Olle

    ()

    (Columbia University)

  • Persson, Torsten

    ()

    (Institute for International Economic Studies)

  • Rickne, Johanna

    ()

    (Research Institute of Industrial Economics (IFN))

Registered author(s):

    Preferential voting has been introduced in a number of proportional election systems over the last 20 years, mainly as a means to increase the accountability of individual politicians. But most of these reforms have been criticized as blatant failures. In this paper, we discover a genuinely new fact, which calls into question this negative evaluation. We show that preferential voting in a general election can operate as a stand-in internal primary election for top party positions. To do this, we rely on a unique data set from four waves of Swedish local elections, which includes every nominated politician in each of 290 municipal assemblies. We use a natural-experiment (regression-discontinuity) approach to estimate the causal effect of winning the most preferential votes on becoming the local party leader, and find that narrow "list winners" are over 50 percent more likely to become party leaders than their runner-ups. Comparing across politicians, the effect of list winning is the strongest for competent politicians, who are also more likely to draw preferential votes than mediocre politicians. Comparing across municipalities, the response to narrow list winning is the strongest within unthreatened governing majorities, where voters also use the preferential vote the most frequently.

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    Paper provided by Research Institute of Industrial Economics in its series Working Paper Series with number 1002.

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    Length: 32 pages
    Date of creation: 17 Jan 2014
    Date of revision:
    Handle: RePEc:hhs:iuiwop:1002
    Contact details of provider: Postal: Research Institute of Industrial Economics, Box 55665, SE-102 15 Stockholm, Sweden
    Phone: +46 8 665 4500
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    Web page: http://www.ifn.se/
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    1. 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, 09.
    2. Besley, Timothy & Folke, Olle & Persson, Torsten & Rickne, Johanna, 2013. "Gender Quotas and the Crisis of the Mediocre Man: Theory and Evidence from Sweden," Working Paper Series 985, Research Institute of Industrial Economics.
    3. Imbens, Guido W. & Kalyanaraman, Karthik, 2009. "Optimal Bandwidth Choice for the Regression Discontinuity Estimator," IZA Discussion Papers 3995, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    4. David S. Lee & Enrico Moretti & Matthew J. Butler, 2004. "Do Voters Affect Or Elect Policies? Evidence from the U. S. House," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 119(3), pages 807-859, August.
    5. Robert Barro, 1973. "The control of politicians: An economic model," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 14(1), pages 19-42, March.
    6. Feddersen, Timothy J & Pesendorfer, Wolfgang, 1996. "The Swing Voter's Curse," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 86(3), pages 408-24, June.
    7. Piketty, Thomas, 2000. "Voting as Communicating," Review of Economic Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 67(1), pages 169-91, January.
    8. Imbens, Guido W. & Lemieux, Thomas, 2008. "Regression discontinuity designs: A guide to practice," Journal of Econometrics, Elsevier, vol. 142(2), pages 615-635, February.
    9. Rafael Hortala-Vallve & Hannes Mueller, 2010. "Primaries: The Unifying Force," UFAE and IAE Working Papers 843.10, Unitat de Fonaments de l'Anàlisi Econòmica (UAB) and Institut d'Anàlisi Econòmica (CSIC).
    10. Svaleryd, Helena & Vlachos, Jonas, 2009. "Political rents in a non-corrupt democracy," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 93(3-4), pages 355-372, April.
    11. Meirowitz, Adam & Shotts, Kenneth W., 2009. "Pivots versus signals in elections," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 144(2), pages 744-771, March.
    12. McCrary, Justin, 2008. "Manipulation of the running variable in the regression discontinuity design: A density test," Journal of Econometrics, Elsevier, vol. 142(2), pages 698-714, February.
    13. John Ferejohn, 1986. "Incumbent performance and electoral control," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 50(1), pages 5-25, January.
    14. Alberto Alesina & Nouriel Roubini & Gerald D. Cohen, 1997. "Political Cycles and the Macroeconomy," MIT Press Books, The MIT Press, edition 1, volume 1, number 0262510944, June.
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