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“Why Geographically-Targeted Spending Under Closed-List Proportional Representation Favors Marginal Districts” by Amy Catalinac and Lucia Motolinia

October 21, 2020 @ 9:00 am 10:00 am JST

Authors: Amy Catalinac (NYU) & Lucia Motolinia (NYU)

Abstract: Research on geographically-targeted spending under closed-list proportional representation (CLPR) reveals a debate over whether governing parties target `core supporters’ or `swing voters’. We show that when divisor-based formulae are used to convert votes into seats, parties can `reverse’ the formula to calculate the number of additional votes needed to win an additional seat. Because many CLPR countries use multiple PR districts and conduct separate competitions in each, this invites parties to rank districts according to how close they were to winning an additional seat. Reversing divisor-based formulae reveals an inverse relationship between the number of extra votes needed in a district and the number of seats a party already has there: namely, parties need fewer extra votes in districts where they captured fewer seats (`marginal districts’). We posit that governing parties steer geographically-targeted spending toward marginal districts under CLPR and we present evidence of this from Japan, 1996-2013.

Discussants: Gary Cox (Stanford), Matt Golder (Penn State), and Kenneth Mori McElwain (University of Tokyo).

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