Publication details

I Don't Like It Unless It's for Me: Experimental Test of Voters’ Perception of Pork-Barrel Politics


TÓTH Michal NEMČOK Miroslav HRBKOVÁ Lenka

Year of publication 2018
Type Appeared in Conference without Proceedings
Description Effective and fair redistribution of public resources is seen as one of the key elements of well-functioning democracy. In the real world, however, it turns out that resources are often allocated neither effectively nor equitably, and that the impartial allocation of public finances serves as a tool for securing votes and reelection [Dahlberg and Johansson 2002; Denemark 2000; Evans 2004]. The existing research shows that politicians strive to provide a favorable political decision and they are intentionally giving more money to regions that are represented by their political allies with the aim to influence the local electoral behavior [Denemark 2000; Costa-I-Font 2003; Gaunt 1999; Solle-Olle a Sorribas-Navarro 2008, Spáč 2016]. The literature provides compelling evidence for pork-barrel patterns present in distributive politics. However, very little is known about voters’ perception of this inherently unfair effort to ensure their votes. Existing findings are not only limited, but also contradictory – it appears that voters can perceive such strategy both in positive and negative way [Braidwood 2015, Boggild 2016], but it is not clear what stands behind such ambiguity. In order to find out more about factors influencing the voters' perceptions of pork-barrel politics, we design an experiment adjusting various attributes of politically motivated distribution of public resources and study how they affect the level of trust and evaluation of responsible political actor(s). We assume that the support for a decision-maker responsible for the redistribution is highly conditioned by the level at which the finances are reallocated, the subjectively perceived salience of the policy, and the way the information about redistribution is framed. We also believe that the psychological mechanism of the perception of unfair redistribution of public resources and the sensitivity to partiality is deeply rooted in the sociopolitical and cultural context. Given the fact that existing studies are conducted in the regions with long democratic tradition, we decided to contribute to the current findings with the patterns present in the countries of Central Europe for which a higher degree of clientelism and corruption is characteristic.
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