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Essays on democratisation and incumbency effects

Hofstetter, Selina (2020) Essays on democratisation and incumbency effects. PhD thesis, London School of Economics and Political Science.

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Both suffrage rights and elections are fundamental parts of democracy. I study the factors that drive the effects of and the support for suffrage extensions. In the context of elections, I develop an empirical strategy to identify the potential disadvantage from which incumbent parties suffer. My dissertation is therefore split into three papers, which answer the following research questions: 1. Does the political impact of enfranchisement vary with its political and institutional context? 2. What are the factors driving the support for enfranchisement? 3. How can we identify whether incumbent parties suffer from a disadvantage in elections? In the first paper, I exploit quasi-random local franchise extensions to Swiss women in the late 20th century to empirically identify the political impact of female suffrage in different contexts. First, I analyse municipalities with a male majority in favor of women's vote and ones with a majority against it. I further study municipalities with a parliament versus direct-democratic assemblies. My findings show that female suffrage caused a right-wing effect in municipal party vote shares and expenditure. However, municipalities that favoured female suffrage moved more center-right than right, and experienced a lower drop in electoral turnout. Municipalities with a parliament instead of an assembly making budget decisions, experienced an increase instead of a drop in expenditure. I complement my findings with a national election survey from 1972 to show that the effects might be driven by differences in women's political interest. Democratisation literature mostly focuses on the elite's decision to extend the franchise. But in many cases, current voters have to decide whether to grant the vote to a broader population. Little evidence exists on what factors drive the support among those who are already enfranchised. In this paper, I exploit the change in municipal Yes-vote shares among male voters for two Swiss national referenda on female suffrage between 1959 and 1971. I show that municipalities, which quasi-randomly introduced local female suffrage in between the two referenda, increased their support much more. This increase is driven by municipalities in which a majority of men was initially opposed to national suffrage. Conditioning on similar initial support, I further show that this difference cannot be explained by a \ceiling effect". My findings can also not corroborate that the rise in support is driven by post-suffrage change in municipal party vote shares, expenditure, or cultural proxies, such as female labour market participation. The third paper discusses the partisan incumbency disadvantage. Partisan incumbency disadvantage is the extent to which a candidate is impeded by her party's incumbency status in an open-seat race. The current literature suggests its prevalence in young democracies and explains it through weak parties or corruption. However, we show that canonical regression discontinuity designs (RD) to estimate this quantity can be downward biased. Cause is an imbalance in voters' uncertainty about the candidate's quality at the RD cut-off. We propose a revised empirical strategy to circumvent bias. With data from Brazilian mayoral elections in 1996-2012, we apply both the canonical and the revised strategy to identify the electoral disadvantage incumbent parties face. We find that using the new approach cuts the effect by three quarters (from -13.2% to -3.1%).

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Additional Information: © 2020 Selina Hofstetter
Library of Congress subject classification: H Social Sciences > HQ The family. Marriage. Woman
J Political Science > JA Political science (General)
Sets: Departments > Government
Supervisor: Dewan, Torun and Wolton, Stephane and Wehner, Joachim

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