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Title: The politics of distribution
Author: Jurado, Ignacio
ISNI:       0000 0003 8381 9507
Awarding Body: University of Oxford
Current Institution: University of Oxford
Date of Award: 2012
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This dissertation presents a theoretical framework about which voters parties distribute to and with which policies. To develop this full framework of distributive policies, the dissertation proceeds in two stages. First, it analyses which voters parties have more incentives to target distributive policies. Second, it also develops the conditions under which political parties can focus exclusively on these voters or need to combine this strategy with appeals to a broader electorate. The first part of the argument analyses which voters parties have at the centre of their distributive strategies, or, in the words of Cox and McCubbins (1986) to whom parties will give an available extra dollar for distribution. The argument is that core voters provide more efficient conditions for distribution, contradicting Stokes’ (2005) claim that a dollar spent on core voters is a wasted dollar. The explanation is twofold. First, core supporters might not vote for another party, but they can get demobilised. Once we include the effects on turnout, core voters are more responsive. Their party identification makes them especially attentive and reactive to economic benefits provided by their party. Secondly, incumbents cannot individually select who receives a distributive policy, and not all voters are equally reachable with distributive policies. When a party provides a policy, it cannot control if some of those resources go to voters the party is not interested in. Core supporters are more homogenous groups with more definable traits, whereas swing voters are a residual category composed by heterogeneous voters with no shared interests. This makes it easier for incumbents to shape distributive benefits that target core voters more exclusively. These mechanisms define the general distribution hypothesis: parties will focus on core voters, by targeting their distributive strategies to them. The second part of the dissertation develops the conditions under which politicians stick to this distributive strategy or, instead, would provide more universalistic spending to a more undefined set of recipients. The conventional argument explaining this choice relies on the electoral system, arguing that proportional systems give more incentives to provide universalistic policies than majoritarian systems. This dissertation challenges this argument and provides two other contextual conditions that define when parties have a stronger interest in their core supporters or in a more general electorate. First, the geographic distribution of core supporters across districts is a crucial piece of information to know the best distributive strategy. When parties’ core supporters are geographically concentrated, they cannot simply rely on them, as the party will always fall short of districts to win the election. Therefore, parties will have greater incentives to expand their electorate by buying off other voters. This should reduce the predicted differences between electoral systems in the provision of universalistic programmes. Secondly, the policy positions of candidates are a result of strategic considerations that respond to other candidates’ positions. Thus, I argue that parties adapt their distributive strategies to the number of competing parties, independently of the electoral system. In a two-party scenario, parties need broader coalitions of electoral support. In equilibrium, any vote can change the electoral outcome. As more parties compete, the breadth of parties’ electorates is reduced and parties will find narrow distributive policies more profitable. In summary, the main contribution of this dissertation one is to provide a new framework to study distributive politics. This framework makes innovations both on the characterisation of swing and core electoral groups, and the rationale of parties’ distributive strategies, contributing to advance previous theoretical and empirical research.
Supervisor: Rueda, David Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Democratic government ; Public policy ; Social policy & social work ; Congressional ; American politics ; distributive policies ; electoral behaviour ; party strategies ; social policies