Democracy and government performance: Holding incumbents accountable in english local governments

George A. Boyne, Oliver James, Peter John, Nicolai Petrovsky

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    135 Citations (Scopus)


    The link between government performance and support for incumbents is a key mechanism of accountable government. We model the vote share of incumbent administrations in local government as proportional and nonproportional responses to public service performance. We evaluate the models using a panel data set covering performance and elections from 2001 to 2007 in English local governments where an incumbent party or coalition was up for reelection. We control for the previous vote, whether the incumbent administration is of the national governing party, and local economic conditions. We find evidence for a nonproportional, performance threshold hypothesis, which implies that voters behavior is affected by clear gradations of performance. Only the difference between low performance and at least mediocre performance matters. There is no reward for high performance. Instead our findings suggest negativity bias in the relationship between performance and electoral support for incumbents.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)1273-1284
    Number of pages12
    JournalJournal of Politics
    Issue number4
    Publication statusPublished - Oct 2009


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