Punishing Local Incumbents for the Local Economy


After decennia of research on economic voting, it is now established that the state of the economy affects voting behaviour. Nevertheless, this conclusion is the result of a focus on predominantly national-level economies and national-level elections. In this paper, we show that at a local level as well, mechanisms of accountability linked to the economy are at work. The local economic context affected voting behaviour in the 2012 Belgian municipal elections, with a stronger increase of unemployment rates in their municipality significantly decreasing the probability that voters choose an incumbent party. Additionally, we observe that voters are not opportunistically voting for incumbents who lower tax rates. Instead, voters seem to be holding local incumbents accountable for local economic conditions. We hence conclude that voters care about economic outcomes, not about what specific policies are implemented to reach these outcomes.


Economic voting, local elections, reward and punishment, Belgium

This content has been updated on 14 October 2016 at 22 h 30 min.