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How Politicians' Reelection Efforts Can Reduce Public Trust, Electoral Support, and Policy Approval

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Politicians’ desire for reelection motivates them to be responsive to voters’ policy preferences. In the traditional view, voters choose between candidates based on their delivery of favorable outcomes such as ideologically appealing policies or a prospering economy. However, research in psychology shows that, in addition to outcomes, people care about procedural fairness and, particularly, impartial decision-makers who make decisions without personal motives and interests. This, I argue, confronts politicians with a delicate task: Politicians must present voters with favorable policy outcomes but without appearing as if they pursue these policies based on a personal, vote-maximizing motive for reelection. In four survey experiments, I find support for this argument. Participants were significantly less inclined to trust and vote for politicians and support their policies when political decisions were described as motivated by reelection considerations than when no such motive was present. The findings advance our understanding of how citizens view political representation and have important implications for research on public opinion, legislative behavior, and democratic theory.
TidsskriftPolitical Psychology
Sider (fra-til)901-919
Antal sider19
StatusUdgivet - 15 nov. 2016


  • Public Opinion, Political attitudes, Political behavior, Political Science, Fairness, Justice

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