Who Turns to Clientelism? Opportunistic Politicians, Patronage Appointments, and Vote Buying in Brazil
56 Pages Posted: 24 May 2019 Last revised: 25 Jul 2022
Date Written: May 22, 2022
Programmatic and clientelistic exchanges between voters and politicians coexist in many countries. Why do some politicians engage in clientelism while others do not? Existing explanations highlight economic development, political competition, and incumbency. By contrast, this study emphasizes a crucial but overlooked factor—namely, politicians' motivations. Investigating politicians' prior party-switching behavior, I introduce a novel empirical approach to distinguish policy-motivated from office-motivated politicians. I propose that the latter, whom I call opportunists, are more likely to engage in clientelism. Exploiting a close-elections regression discontinuity design across Brazilian municipalities, I show that opportunists resort to patronage appointments in both lower-ranking and senior government jobs. Analyses of public opinion and surveys of politicians reveal that opportunists also engage in vote buying. As inattention to politicians' motivations is not restricted to the literature on clientelism, these findings remind scholars of the importance of intrinsic motivations to understand elite political behavior.
Keywords: clientelism, patronage, bureaucracy, public sector employment, vote buying, party switching, opportunistic politicians, candidate motivation
JEL Classification: D72, D73, D91, H75, J45
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation