Electoral Accountability and Particularistic Legislation: Evidence from an Electoral Reform in Mexico
By Lucia Motolinia, New York University
Being able to hold politicians accountable is the hallmark of democracy, and central to this is the notion that politicians can run for reelection. Most research on reelection incentives compare politicians who are term-limited with those who are not. These studies concentrate mostly on relatively senior politicians in candidate-centered electoral systems. This article leverages a quasi-natural experiment posed by the staggered implementation of the 2014 Mexican Electoral Reform, which lifted an eighty-year-old ban on reelection. The author conducts a difference-in-differences analysis of the hypothesis that reelection encourages legislators to focus more on policies with the highest “electoral yield”—namely, particularistic legislation. Applying a correlated topic model to a new collection of transcripts from 6,890 legislative sessions in 20 Mexican states between 2012 and 2018, this article presents compelling evidence that it does, that the effect is synchronized with the electoral cycle, and that it is larger when the legislators’ political horizons are longer.