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Party-constrained Policy Responsiveness: A Survey Experiment on Politicians' Response to Citizen-initiated Contacts

Journal article
Authors Patrik Öhberg
Elin Naurin
Published in British Journal of Political Science
Volume 46
Issue 4
Pages 785-797
ISSN 0007-1234
Publication year 2016
Published at Department of Political Science
Pages 785-797
Language en
Subject categories Political Science (excluding Public Administration Studies and Globalization Studies), Public Administration Studies


How do individual party representatives respond to direct policy requests from citizens when the requests go against the party's position? In a survey experiment, 2,547 Swedish politicians are randomly assigned to scenarios in which citizens make contact to influence a political decision. Their willingness to respond to citizens' policy requests is measured using six indicators that capture adaptive as well as communicative responsiveness. The results show a lower willingness to adapt and to communicate when the request disagrees with the party's position. The effect is mitigated when politicians agree with the proposal and when likely voters make contact, but only for listening and adaptive responses, not for explaining responses (which have the opposite relationship). Important findings for future research are that the party matters for politicians' responsiveness and that their willingness to give explaining responses follows a different logic than for listening and adaptive responses. © Cambridge University Press 2015.

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