When Are Legislators Responsive to Ethnic Minorities? Testing the Role of Electoral Incentives and Candidate Selection for Mitigating Ethnocentric Responsiveness

Abstract: Previous studies have documented ethnic/racial bias in politicians’ constituency service, but less is known about the circumstances under which such ethnocentric responsiveness is curbed. We propose and test two hypotheses in this regard: the electoral incentives hypothesis, predicting that incentives for (re)election crowd out politicians’ potential biases, and the candidate selection hypothesis, stipulating that minority constituents can identify responsive legislators by using candidates’ partisan affiliation and stated policy preferences as heuristics. We test these hypotheses through a field experiment on the responsiveness of incumbent local politicians in Denmark (N = 2,395), varying ethnicity, gender, and intention to vote for the candidate in the upcoming election, merged with data on their electoral performance and their stated policy preferences from a voting advice application. We observe marked ethnocentric responsiveness and find no indication that electoral incentives mitigate this behavior. However, minority voters can use parties’ and individual candidates’ stances on immigration to identify responsive politicians.

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License CC BY
DOI https://doi.org/10.1017/S0003055420001070
Type Journal Articles
C-ID POLS 130 - Comparative
Pedagogical Note Not Yet