Off-Cycle and Out of Office: Election Timing and the Incumbency Advantage

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Authors Justin de Benedictis-Kessner
Journal/Conference Name THE JOURNAL OF POLITICS
Paper Category
Paper Abstract Democratic accountability relies on the ability of citizens to reward and punish politicians in elections. Electoral institutions, such as the timing of elections, may play a powerful role in this process. In this article, I assess how on-cycle (concurrent) and off-cycle elections affect one facet of accountability—the incumbency advantage—using data on nearly 10,000 mayoral elections in cities over the past 60 years. Using a regression discontinuity design, I find that incumbency carries a substantial advantage for individual candidates. Moreover, I find that on-cycle elections provide incumbents with a far larger advantage than off-cycle elections do. These results show that election timing has important implications for electoral politics and demonstrate one possible mechanism for the prevalence of the incumbency advantage.
Date of publication 2018
Code Programming Language R

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