The Microfoundation of Incumbency Effects: A Conjoint Survey Experiment in Brazil

Grants to Support Faculty Fellows' Research
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Why are incumbents systematically reelected in some Latin American countries but systematically ousted in other countries? In my book project, I develop a theory of incumbency effects that stresses strong accountability in contexts where voters demand public goods but incumbents suffer fiscal shocks. This research examines the microfoundations of incumbency effects via a conjoint survey experiment in the context of Brazil's upcoming municipal elections. Voters will be primed by different fiscal scenarios and then asked to express their preference for incumbents vis-à-vis challengers in settings that randomly vary along with multiple candidate attributes -such as partisanship, experience, competence, honesty, gender, and race.

This project squarely tackles the main themes at the core of the Kellogg Institute's mission. Incumbency advantages and disadvantages are commonly perceived as indicators of broken democratic accountability and of potential democratic erosion. My research partially challenges this assumption and shifts the focus from malfeasant elites to incompletely informed voters, a problem common to developing and developed democracies alike. The project also closely examines citizen demands for public goods provision, a fundamental challenge of development. My research suggests that public policies aimed at improving citizen knowledge of fiscal rules and policymaking may improve public goods provision. Besides these substantive themes, my research contributes to the Kellogg Institute's longstanding interest in Latin