Local representation and strategic voting: evidence from electoral boundary reforms
We use Finnish local election voting data to analyze whether voters value local representation and act strategically to guarantee it. To identify such preferences and behavior, we exploit municipal mergers as natural experiments, which increase the number of candidates and parties available to voters and intensify political competition. Using difference-in-differences strategy, we find that voters in merged municipalities start to concentrate their votes to local candidates despite the larger choice set, whereas the vote distributions in the municipalities that did not merge remain the same. Moreover, the concentration effect is clearly larger in municipalities that are less likely to gain local representation in the post-merger councils. We also find that the effect increases both as the geographical distance and income heterogeneity between merging municipalities increases. We interpret these results as evidence of both preferences for local representation and strategic voting.
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