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The impact of transparency on legislative behavior. Taking position avoidance into account: The case of Chile

This dissertation studies the effect of a transparency reform on legislators' behavior. In order to specify how and why the transparency reform would have an impact, it builds a theoretical framework based on a theory of legislative behavior. The expectations are tested against the behavior of the Chilean Lower House legislators before and after a transparency reform. The theoretical expectations derive from a theory of legislative behavior based on reelection-oriented legislators organized in parties. This theoretical framework has two central features. First, position avoidance is taken explicitly into account. Second, from previous work on comparative representation, legislators may establish programmatic and non-programmatic linkages with their constituencies. In line with the literature, legislators who follow a programmatic linkage strategy are expected to adopt positions closer to their electoral constituency. Furthermore, as legislators build such positions from their roll call, I expect that legislators, when cross pressured between their party and their constituency, will be more likely to side with their constituency. I argue that cross-pressured legislators may also avoid taking a position, as it does not influence observed party unity and does not imply voting against the constituency. Thus, reliance on position avoidance introduces a wedge between the public position taken by legislators and their effective position which has not been previously studied. I tested my hypotheses with observational data of the behavior of the Chilean Lower House members as a transparency reform took place in 2004, halfway through the legislative term. The case provides additional advantages to empirical assessment of my hypotheses, as legislators are allowed to abstain during any vote, and this option is recorded. The results provide evidence of the complex impact of transparency reform on legislators' behavior. There is some evidence of a positive impact of transparency as it provides incentives for legislators to adopt public positions closer to their electoral constituencies. But the results on the use of position avoidance raise concerns as the observed moderation may partly be the result of obfuscation rather than of improved responsiveness. In particular, the strategic use of abstentions enables legislators to build a moderate reputation without having to support their constituencies┬┤ preferences on all issues.
Date January 2014
CreatorsLe Foulon, Carmen Magdalena
Source SetsColumbia University
Detected LanguageEnglish

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