Previous Research on Citizen-Politician Linkages
So far, political scientists have gathered substantial evidence on political parties’ positions on broad policies or “party programs,” and this information is available only for affluent Western OECD democracies and their postcommunist democratic neighbors. Little systematic information, however, has been collected about other ways politicians and voters might employ to build relations of accountability and demonstrate responsiveness anywhere in the world. Ethnographers, sociologists, and political scientists have conducted a number of highly instructive localized case study investigations. They examine partisan politics and exchange relations between voters and politicians to describe accountability practices in specific countries and time periods. Public opinion surveys about the role of issues and material benefits in the vote choice and statistical political economic data (e.g. about fiscal expenditure patterns and the size of the public sector labor force) have informed such case studies. National case studies have tried to gain explanatory leverage by studying subnational variance in accountability relations across cities or states and provinces in individual countries.
While all these studies are pertinent contributions to research on democratic politics, they lack a more comprehensive global comparative empirical grasp. This is where this project on democratic accountability comes in. It aims at broadening the range of countries and the range of citizen-politician linkage mechanisms about which systematic descriptive information is gathered. The objective is to compare descriptively and to explain different practices of democratic accountability and their political, economic and cultural consequences. Whereas existing studies of democratic accountability tend to be deep and precise, but have little cross-national breadth of coverage, this study aims for broad scope in describing citizen-politician linkages while sacrificing some depth of analysis in particular countries or subnational settings.
For recent overviews of literature and theoretical conceptualizations of citizen-politician linkages, particularly in view of the provision of targeted benefits in contingent exchange relations, see the following texts all of which have copious references both to classics in the field as well as to recent empirical research:
Herbert Kitschelt and Steven Wilkinson, eds., Patrons, Clients, and Policies. Patterns of Democratic Accountability and Political Competition. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Frances Hagopian, “Parties and Voters in Emerging Democracies,” pp. 582-603 in Carles Boix and Susan Stokes, eds., The Oxford Handbook of Comparative Politics. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2007.
Susan Stokes, “Political Clientelism,” pp. 604-27 in Carles Boix and Susan Stokes, eds., The Oxford Handbook of Comparative Politics. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2007.