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Incumbency Advantage in Irish Elections: A Regression Discontinuity Analysis

  • Paul Redmond


    (Department of Economics Finance and Accounting, National University of Ireland, Maynooth)

  • John Regan

Ireland provides an interesting setting for the study of incumbency advantage. Its electoral system creates incentives for political candidates to cultivate a loyal, personal following and the rate of incumbent re-election is one of the highest in the world. This paper exploits the quasi-experimental features of the system of proportional representation with a single transferable vote (PR-STV) to estimate incumbency advantage in Ireland’s lower house of parliament. In very close elections, where there is a narrow margin of victory, it is likely that bare winners are comparable in their unobservable characteristics to bare losers. Regression discontinuity design (RDD) identifies the causal effect of incumbency by comparing the subsequent electoral outcomes of bare winners and losers. The analysis indicates that incumbency causes an eighteen percentage point increase in the probability that a candidate is successful in a subsequent election. We show that Ireland’s multi-party, multi-candidate system is particularly suited to the application of the RDD methodology.

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Paper provided by Department of Economics, Finance and Accounting, National University of Ireland - Maynooth in its series Economics, Finance and Accounting Department Working Paper Series with number n241-13.pdf.

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Length: 25 pages
Date of creation: 2013
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:may:mayecw:n241-13.pdf
Contact details of provider: Postal: Maynooth, Co. Kildare
Phone: 353-1-7083728
Fax: 353-1-7083934
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  1. 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).
  2. Che-Yuan Liang, 2013. "Is there an incumbency advantage or cost of ruling in proportional election systems?," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 154(3), pages 259-284, March.
  3. Uppal, Yogesh, 2007. "The Disadvantaged Incumbents: Estimating Incumbency Effects in Indian State Legislatures," MPRA Paper 8515, University Library of Munich, Germany.
  4. David S. Lee & Thomas Lemieux, 2009. "Regression Discontinuity Designs in Economics," NBER Working Papers 14723, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  5. 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.
  6. Cox, Gary W. & Katz, Jonathan N., 1995. "Why Did The Incumbency Advantage In U.S. House Elections Grow?," Working Papers 939, California Institute of Technology, Division of the Humanities and Social Sciences.
  7. Yogesh Uppal, 2010. "Estimating Incumbency Effects In U.S. State Legislatures: A Quasi-Experimental Study," Economics and Politics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 22(2), pages 180-199, 07.
  8. Alain de Janvry & Frederico Finan & Elisabeth Sadoulet, 2010. "Local Electoral Incentives and Decentralized Program Performance," NBER Working Papers 16635, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  9. Levitt, Steven D, 1994. "Using Repeat Challengers to Estimate the Effect of Campaign Spending on Election Outcomes in the U.S. House," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 102(4), pages 777-98, August.
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