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(Why) do politicians care about public opinion?Politicians' accountability beliefs: the missing link in explaining policy (in)congruence.

Politicians nowadays face the criticism of not being responsive towards citizens' demands, with as a classical though crucial example the recent populist uprisings. Citizens seem to believe that, even if they convey their preferences loud and clear, they are ignored by those who should represent them. One crucial guarantee of responsive politicians, lies in the threat of electoral reprisal: politicians are incentivized to do what citizens want because they want to retain in office. Politicians' desire to be reelected makes them presumably enact more congruent policies. In this project, I focus on this important mechanism, by examining politicians' beliefs about how and to what extent the congruence of their behavior with what citizens want, will have positive or negative electoral consequences. In strong contradiction with the centrality of this research question in the public debate, it has rarely come to the attention of academics. In this project, I address this gap with an in-depth study of politicians' so-called "accountability beliefs". First, I aim to conceptualize those accountability beliefs. Second, I examine accountability beliefs empirically by means of an extensive survey with politicians in three different countries. Third, I aim to explain those beliefs by leveraging differences between countries, parties, politicians and issues. Finally, by conducting a survey-embedded experiment, I investigate whether politicians' accountability beliefs affect their behavior.
Date:1 Oct 2020 →  Today
Disciplines:Political inequality, Public opinion