Local representation and strategic voting: Evidence from electoral boundary reforms
Saarimaa, Tuukka; Tukiainen, Janne (2016)
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We analyze whether voters value local political representation by exploiting municipal mergers, which increase the number of candidates available to voters and intensify political competition. In the Finnish open-list proportional representation system, voters rank the candidates within parties, and thus, concentrating votes to local candidates increases the extent of local representation. Using a difference-in-differences strategy, we find that the vote distributions become more concentrated in municipalities less likely to gain local representation after the mergers. Moreover, the effect is much larger in municipalities where the benefits of local representation to voters are large. The latter result disentangles voters' responses from the responses of other political actors. The results are important also for designing local government mergers, which are an important policy tool in many countries. They highlight that concerns over deteriorating local democracy due to mergers have merit, because voters have preferences for local representation. At the same time, the vote concentration patterns we find alleviate these concerns.
C21, C23, D72, H73, H77
Electoral boundary reform, Difference-in-differences, Local representation, Municipality mergers, Strategic voting