Local Candidates, Place-Based Identities, and Electoral Success
Julia Schulte-Cloos & Paul C. Bauer in "Political Behavior"
While a large body of literature empirically documents an electoral advantage for local candidates, the exact mechanisms accounting for this effect remain less clear. We integrate theories on the political geography of candidate-voter relations with socio-psychological accounts of citizens’ local attachment, arguing that citizens vote for candidates from their own local communities as an expression of their place-based identity. To test our argument, we exploit a unique feature of the German mixed-member electoral system. We identify the causal effect of candidates’ localness by relying on within-electoral-district variation coupled with a geo-matching strategy on the level of municipalities (N=11175). The results show that voters exhibit a strong bias in favor of local candidates even when they are not competitive. More than only expecting particularistic benefits from representatives, citizens appear to vote for candidates from their own local community to express their place-based social identity.
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