Investigating Varieties of Political Accountability in Electoral Democracies
This project studies leadership accountability in polities with multi-party elections around the world. Its core ideas and empirical approach can be summarized in a few propositions.
1. Electoral democracies, unlike other political regimes, institutionalize political accountability of rulers to citizens. But accountability is a precarious achievement.
2. Where political accountability succeeds, it involves an exchange relationship between citizens and politicians. Voters temporarily grant politicians the right to rule and enjoy the spoils of office in exchange for benefits and services that accrue to their constituencies.
How, however, politicians identify and tailor the critical voter constituencies that enter accountability relations with them and what benefits and services they deliver to consummate that relationship, varies profoundly across democracies and historical eras.
4. Accountability relations between voters and politicians matter. The terms of electoral exchanges may have consequences for citizens’ economic well-being, social inequality, life satisfaction and support for a democratic order built on electoral competition.
5. Yet political scientists have not systematically studied and compared mechanisms of electoral accountability around the world. This project contributes to pushing the research frontier by collecting data about different kinds of democratic accountability. It includes countries and entire regions not covered in previous research.
6. The project has been designed and is implemented by a group of doctoral students in Duke University’s political science program under the direction of Herbert Kitschelt, George V. Allen Professor of International Relations. For the Latin American countries, the project proceeds in collaboration with the Institute of Political Science, Catholic University of Chile, Santiago de Chile, as module of a more encompassing investigation into party competition in the region, entitled “Cristalización Programática de los Sistemas de Partidos Latinoamericanos: Congruencias, Desafecciones y Calidad de la Democracia,” designed and implemented by Professors David Altman and Juan Pablo Luna.
7. Collection of the data on citizen-politician linkages and accountability relations has been funded by three sources. The data gathered by this project will be made publicly available to the entire social science research community.