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Do Nonpartisan Programmatic Policies Have Partisan Electoral Effects? Evidence from Two Large Scale Randomized Experiments

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  • Kosuke Imai
  • Gary King
  • Carlos Velasco Rivera

Abstract

A vast literature demonstrates that voters around the world who benefit from their governments' discretionary spending cast ballots for the incumbent party in larger proportions than those not receiving funds. But contrary to most theories of political accountability, the evidence seems to indicate that voters also reward incumbent parties for implementing ``programmatic'' spending legislation, over which incumbents have no discretion, and even when passed with support from all major parties. Why voters would attribute responsibility when none exists is unclear, as is why minority party legislators would approve of legislation that will cost them votes. We address this puzzle with one of the largest randomized social experiments ever, resulting in clear rejection of the claim, at least in this context, that programmatic policies greatly increase voter support for incumbents. We also reanalyze the study cited as claiming the strongest support for the electoral effects of programmatic policies, which is also a very large scale randomized experiment. We show that its key results vanish after correcting either a simple coding error affecting only two observations or highly unconventional data analysis procedures (or both). We discuss how these consistent empirical results from the only two probative experiments on this question may be reconciled with several observational and theoretical studies touching on similar questions in other contexts.

Suggested Citation

  • Kosuke Imai & Gary King & Carlos Velasco Rivera, 2016. "Do Nonpartisan Programmatic Policies Have Partisan Electoral Effects? Evidence from Two Large Scale Randomized Experiments," Working Paper 366526, Harvard University OpenScholar.
  • Handle: RePEc:qsh:wpaper:366526
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    File URL: http://gking.harvard.edu//node/366526
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    Cited by:

    1. Patricia Justino & Bruno Martorano, 2016. "Redistribution, inequality and political participation: Evidence from Mexico during the 2008 financial crisis," WIDER Working Paper Series wp-2016-140, World Institute for Development Economic Research (UNU-WIDER).
    2. Patricia Justino & Bruno Martorano, 2016. "Redistribution, inequality and political participation: Evidence from Mexico during the 2008 financial crisis," WIDER Working Paper Series 140, World Institute for Development Economic Research (UNU-WIDER).
    3. Sebastian Galiani & Nadya Hajj & Patrick J. McEwan & Pablo Ibarrarán & Nandita Krishnaswamy, 2019. "Voter Response to Peak and End Transfers: Evidence from a Conditional Cash Transfer Experiment," American Economic Journal: Economic Policy, American Economic Association, vol. 11(3), pages 232-260, August.
    4. Dragan Filipovich & Miguel Niño-Zarazúa & Alma Santillán Hernández, 2018. "Campaign externalities, programmatic spending, and voting preferences in rural Mexico: The case of Progresa-Oportunidades-Prospera programme," WIDER Working Paper Series wp-2018-27, World Institute for Development Economic Research (UNU-WIDER).
    5. Christopher Blattman & Mathilde Emeriau & Nathan Fiala, 2018. "Do Anti-Poverty Programs Sway Voters? Experimental Evidence from Uganda," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 100(5), pages 891-905, December.
    6. Blattman, Christopher & Emeriau, Mathilde & Fiala, Nathan, 2018. "Do anti-poverty programs sway voters? Experimental evidence from Uganda," LSE Research Online Documents on Economics 101663, London School of Economics and Political Science, LSE Library.
    7. Dragan Filipovich & Miguel Niño-Zarazúa & Alma Santillán Hernández, 2018. "Campaign externalities, programmatic spending, and voting preferences in rural Mexico: The case of Progresa-Oportunidades-Prospera programme," WIDER Working Paper Series 027, World Institute for Development Economic Research (UNU-WIDER).

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