Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies
Voter Demands and Representative Behavior
Wednesday, August 2, 2017
to 11:30 AM
126 Herzstein Hall
This dissertation analyzes whether and when voters get the type of representation that they prefer from their political representatives in contemporary democracies. Theoretically, I argue that individual representatives are motivated to respond to the demands of the voters in their districts because of personal vote-seeking incentives and party leader strategies. Likewise, governments have an office-seeking incentive to respond to demands from the national electorate when they produce policy. Empirically, I first show that vote-maximizing party behavior is not confined to mainstream parties, but applies to niche parties as well. Next, I show that individual representatives from parliamentary parties are responsive to policy demands from their district voters on issues that are not highly salient to the party’s brand, and that individual representatives in presidential democracies are more likely to prioritize the provision of national resources to their district when their district voters demand them more. Finally, I show that government social spending in OECD countries responds to the preferences of the median voter in the national electorate. These findings have important implications for how representation works in contemporary democracies.