Does Local Representation Matter?
58 Pages Posted: 4 Sep 2019 Last revised: 5 Sep 2019
Date Written: August 13, 2019
Unequal descriptive representation of local subconstituencies (municipalities) within electoral districts can potentially generate differences in voting behavior and substantive policy outcomes, but causal identification of this phenomenon is a challenge due to the nonrandom nature of candidate emergence and selection within parties. We use detailed candidate-level data from Norway to investigate the effect of local representation on three outcomes—local voting behavior, central-to-local redistribution, and mentions of municipalities in legislative speeches—applying a regression discontinuity design to marginal candidates to overcome the selection bias inherent in nomination decisions. We find that parties obtain higher support in subsequent elections in the hometowns of narrowly-elected candidates, pointing to a mobilizational benefit for parties of local descriptive representation. In terms of substantive representation, we find no evidence of increased redistributive benefits for represented municipalities, but a significant increase in mentions in legislative speeches relative to unrepresented municipalities.
Keywords: local representation, voter mobilization, distributive politics, legislative speech, regression discontinuity design, Norway
JEL Classification: D72
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation