Pork Barrel Politics in Germany

Research question/goal: 

The aim of the project has been to assess the effects of mixed-member electoral systems on the behavior of MPs, especially regarding MPs’ effort to acquire public projects for their district. We argue that MPs in mixed-member systems have to decide whether to focus on representing their party or their district voters. Whereas existing studies of mixed-member systems have thus far paid attention to the past mode of election (district vs. list), the project has sought to provide a micro-foundation of the assumed causal relationship by explicitly modeling MPs’ stakes of re-election and their behavior. These stakes generate a more complex incentive scheme than the mere party-district dichotomy because of the specific characteristics of mixed-member systems (e.g. dual candidacy). The analysis of the resulting behavior has been conducted with regard to members of the German Bundestag and comprises three facets: (1) development of a formal model of MP behavior; (2) the analysis of empirical data on traffic infrastructure construction, MP communication about projects, and voter reactions to the construction of projects; (3) subsequent interviews with MPs about their strategic conduct to acquire projects in order to study the proposed micro-mechanism of the causal model. A key result of the formal model is that MPs in mixed-member systems focus on their district if, and only if, the district is competitive and the MP is not (sufficiently) secured by a safe list position (type 1). All other MPs primarily address the party (type 2). The empirical analysis provides solid evidence for this prediction. We also find that districts with a type 1 MP belonging to the governing majority receive significantly more construction projects. Moreover, having a member on the lead committee in parliament increases the level of spending to the district. An investigation of election results shows that voters indeed reward their MPs when the construction of a project is finished.

Fact sheet

Funding: 
Studienstiftung des Deutschen Volkes
Duration: 
2010 to 2012
Status: 
completed
Data Sources: 
semi-structured interviews, public construction data, elections to the German Bundestag
Geographic Space: 
Germany

Publications