Clarity of Responsibility and Electoral Accountability: Evidence From Local Tax Policy in Denmark

  • 15 Jan 2019

    12:30-14:00, Clay Room, Nuffield College

  • Political Science Seminars   Add to Calendar
Speaker: Professor Martin Vinæs Larsen

Aarhus University

An important difference among representative democracies lies in the extent to which governing politicians are clearly responsible for policy-making. Research shows that this affects whether voters punish and reward politicians for policy outcomes. In this article, we explore whether politicians recognize this and become more likely to enact the policies voters electorally reward. To estimate the causal effect of clarity of responsibility on politicians’ behavior, we exploit an electoral discontinuity in responsibility for local tax policy in Denmark—a salient policy area. Even though voters hold local politicians more accountable for tax policy when they become more clearly responsible, we find that politicians leave taxes unchanged. However, local tax rates still decrease in response to increases in clarity of responsibility, but only after voters get a chance to unseat the parties who raise taxes. Our findings thus suggest that politicians are unresponsive to more subtle changes in electoral incentives, yet policy remains responsive because of electoral selection.

The Political Science Seminar Series is convened by Ben Ansell and Desmond King For more information on this or any of the seminars in the series, please contact