How Do Politicians Attribute Bureaucratic Responsibility for Performance? Negativity Bias and Interest Group Advocacy

Poul A. Nielsen, Donald P. Moynihan

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Abstrakt

Voters reward or punish politicians by deeming them responsible for positive and negative outcomes, but how, in turn, do politicians attribute responsibility to those who actually deliver public services? Inattention to this question renders incomplete current perspectives on democratic processes of accountability, even as politicians are increasingly provided with performance data to hold bureaucrats accountable. We shed light on this issue using a survey experiment of elected officials featuring actual performance data. We find that the provision of performance data makes elected officials more willing to attribute causal responsibility to bureaucratic leaders, but only in cases of low performance, suggesting a negativity bias in public sector responsibility attribution processes. Additionally, we offer evidence that interest group advocates influence how elected officials use performance information to attribute responsibility, but contingent on ideological alignment.
OriginalsprogEngelsk
TidsskriftJournal of Public Administration Research and Theory
Vol/bind27
Udgave nummer2
Sider (fra-til)269-283
ISSN1053-1858
DOI
StatusUdgivet - 2017

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