American Politics & Public Policy Workshop: Adam Dynes, “Procedural Obfuscation and Electoral Accountability in Local Politics”

Event time: 
Wednesday, September 17, 2014 - 4:00pm through 5:15pm
Event description: 

“Procedural Obfuscation and Electoral Accountability in Local Politics”

Adam Dynes, Ph.D. Candidate in Political Science, Yale University

ABSTRACT: A common concern among political observers is that elected officials can use legislative procedures, like delegation, to undermine democratic accountability. However, very few empirical works examine whether this procedural obfuscation is efficacious or applies to subnational legislatures. This paper addresses these limitations by applying the logic of procedural obfuscation to local politics and then measuring the perceptions of actual municipal policymakers through a survey with embedded experiments. The results provide strong evidence that legislative procedures significantly affect the electoral incentives that local policymakers believe they face. In contrast to the dominant theoretical view, policymakers believe delegation can significantly diminish the blame officials receive for unpopular outcomes without necessarily diminishing the credit they receive for popular ones. A follow up survey finds that the use of these tactics is quite common when local officials face politically difficult votes.

Adam Dynes is a Ph.D. candidate in political science at Yale University. He primarily researches legislative behavior, distributive politics, and representation at the federal, state, and local levels using both observational data and experimental methods.

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