Single-issue Campaigns and Multidimensional Politics

Georgy Egorov (Northwestern University)

Abstract : In most elections, voters care about several issues, but candidates may have to choose only a few on which to build their campaign. The information that voters will get about the politician depends on this choice, and it is therefore a strategic one. In this paper, I study a model of elections where voters care about the candidates' competences (or positions) over two issues, e.g., the economy and foreign policy, but each candidate may only credibly signal his competence or announce his position on at most one issue. Voters are assumed to get (weakly) better information if the candidates campaign on the same issue rather than on different ones. I show that the first mover will, in equilibrium, set the agenda for both himself and the opponent if campaigning on a different issue is uninformative, but otherwise the other candidate may actually be more likely to choose the other issue. The social (voters') welfare is a non-monotone function of the informativeness of different-issue campaigns, but in any case the voters are better off if candidates are free to pick an issue rather than if an issue is set by exogenous events or by voters. If the first mover is able to reconsider his choice when the follower picks a different issue, then politicians who are very competent on both issues will switch. If voters have superior information on a politician's credentials on one of the issues, that politician is more likely to campaign on another issue. If voters care about one issue more than the other, the politicians are more likely to campaign on the more important issue. If politicians are able to advertise on both issues, at a cost, then the most competent and well-rounded ones will do so. This possibility makes voters better informed and better off, but has an ambiguous effect on politicians' utility. The model and the results may help understand endogenous selection of issues in political campaigns and the dynamics of these decisions.

Disentangling Fiscal Effects of Local Constitutions

Jaroslaw Kantorowicz (Leiden University)
Monika Koeppl-Turyna (Agenda Austria)

Abstract : We apply the difference-in-discontinuities design to disentangle the fiscal effects of the governance system conditional on electoral systems. We take advantage of a natural experiment, which involves two institutional reforms at the local level in Poland. The first reform introduced two electoral rules, which change along an exogenous population threshold: smaller municipalities use majoritarian elections, larger municipalities use proportional elections. The second reform changed the governance system in Polish municipalities from “parliamentary” to “presidential”. Our results indicate that a change from parliamentary to presidential form led to lower vertical fiscal imbalance predominantly in the jurisdictions with majoritarian elections and to a lesser extent in municipalities governed by proportional elections. This therefore confirms an interaction effect between the forms of government and electoral rules.

International Politics and Oil Trade: Evidence from Russian Firms

Margarita Portnykh (Carnegie Mellon University)
Kevin Tsui (Clemson University)

Abstract : It is widely argued that oil exporters could use their natural resources as a weapon to punish adversaries and reward allies. Yet empirical analysis of these claims has been elusive due to lack of data. Using a novel dataset on Russian companies’ oil exports over 1999–2011, we show that a decline in relations between Russia and another country, measured by divergence in their United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) voting patterns, considerably reduces the value of Russian oil exports to that country. The effect is more pronounced for state-owned companies. A deterioration in political relations and associated decrease in oil exports are costly for Russian companies. They experience a decline in profitability following a breakdown in political relations between Russia and those companies’ main export destination countries. Finally, we show that a deterioration in political relations with Russia is costly for the countries importing oil from Russia as their total oil imports decline, suggesting that, at least in the short run, it is costly for these countries to find close substitute for Russian oil. Notably, such adverse effect of political relations on oil importers is pretty recent phenomenon observed over 2000-2011, which coincide with the rise of Vladimir Putin to power, such patterns are absent in the earlier 1992-1999 period.

Who’s Cueing Voters: Parties or Leaders? Evidence from a Survey Experiment in Russia

Sergey Sanovich (New York University)

Abstract : Do Russian voters, as it is widely claimed, care more about politicians' faces than about policies of the parties they lead? In this paper, I analyze the extent to which Russian voters respond to policy cues from leaders versus the same policy cues from political parties, and how important party association versus executive position is to the cueing capacity of the incumbent country leaders. Implemented as an endorsement survey experiment, this approach allows removing endogeneity that hampered previous attempts to compare support that people lend to parties and leaders. In addition to providing a reliable estimate of personalization of politics in Russia (both for the incumbent and the opposition), I show how Vladimir Putin is able to use the weakness of the party he leads strategically, to claim victories without taking responsibility for the failures. This paper lays the groundwork for a wider project that will use similar survey experimental tools to compare the degree of personalization across countries and political systems – a vital sign that was always considered important for developing countries but is rapidly becoming relevant in many established democracies as well.

Decentralization’s Conditional Effects on Social Services: Evidence from the Honduran Health Sector

Alan Zarychta (University of Chicago)
Krister Andersson (University of Colorado Boulder)

Abstract : Governments across Latin America have decentralized their health systems in an effort to improve services for poor, rural populations. Despite tremendous enthusiasm on the part of policymakers and donors, relatively little rigorous evidence exists on whether reformed system produce better services or how contextual factors influence effectiveness. In this paper we investigate the conditional effects of decentralized governance on local health services using a difference-in-differences research design and original quantitative and qualitative data from Honduras. We expect that local conditions will moderate the performance of health sector decentralization, namely that decentralization will perform better in localities with more political competition, greater participation, and larger existing resources. Our preliminary analysis supports these expectations, showing that decentralization increases production-based health services, especially preventive care for women, and that these effects are largest in more favorable local contexts. The results of this analysis help inform policymakers in terms of how they target decentralization reforms locally and the types of support that may be needed so that localities with less favorable conditions also experience improvements in their services.