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Seeking the Personal Vote: How Legislators Exploit the Party Mandate

Party Members
Field Experiments
Kyriaki Nanou
Durham University
Kyriaki Nanou
Durham University
Florian Foos
Kings College London

Focusing predominantly on the US context, existing research on MP responsiveness to constituents has found that constituents value responsiveness from their local MP and that MPs commit substantial time and resources to respond to requests by constituents. We contribute to this literature by exploring how MPs in a parliamentary system respond to different types of constituent queries. We argue that representatives in parliamentary systems are not as free to manoeuvre as in presidential systems when answering policy requests. We hypothesise that they will need to square the party position with their own, which they do through either claiming credit personally or shifting blame to the party leadership. We propose a randomized field experiment on the UK House of Commons to test under which conditions legislators take credit and attribute blame when asked to explain their position and the position of their party leadership.

Our experimental design expands upon this literature by auditing responses from MPs in contexts where the constituent either agrees or disagrees with the MP, and where she agrees or disagrees with the party leadership. We conduct a within-subjects experimental design, where a sample of MPs is contacted by a constituent who supports their issue stance and a constituent who opposes their issue stance. Overall, this project extends the study of legislator responsiveness to the parliamentary context. Furthermore, we examine how strong parties may shape legislator behaviour, which was largely neglected in previous research.

(Authors: Kyriaki Nanou, Durham University; Daniel Bischof, University of Zurich; Sarah Cohen, Northumbria University; Gidon Cohen, Durham University; Florian Foos, King’s College London; Patrick Kuhn, Durham University; Neil Visalvanich, Durham University; and Nick Vivyan, Durham University.)
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