Benjamin Nyblade|Research



Working Papers

For more information about any paper, please contact me.


"A Political Agency Model of Leaders, Parties and Voters"
Benjamin Nyblade, October 2013

abstractPrincipal-agent (political agency) models are frequently used to represent the fundamental dynamics of the relationship between voters and politicians. However, standard models generally have not captured key dynamics in the three-way relationship between leaders, their parties and voters. This paper presents a simple political agency model of the relationship between leaders, parties and voters. Whereas much of the informal principal-agent literature has emphasized how parties may improve the accountability of leaders to voters, it is clear that the accountability of leaders to parties may also divert leaders’ accountability to voters and potentially reduce voter welfare. The models presented here parameterize several key factors that may influence whether parties enhance or divert leader accountability to voters. As voters may recognize the accountability relationship between leaders and parties may also lead, they may become more acceptant of leaders who pursue policies that are in parties’ interests, even when this comes at the expense of voters. The model also suggests a logic whereby leaders may ‘run against’ their own parties in elections, and their party can be rewarded for them doing so, and also suggests how parties may choose to frequently replace leaders, regardless of their type or actions. The empirical implications of the final point are explored with cross-national data on party leader durability from twenty countries and case studies of changes in the leadership of Japan’s Liberal Democratic Party.


"Evaluating the Quality of Democracy with Individual Level Models of Satisfaction: Or, A Complete Model of Satisfaction with Democracy"
Fred Cutler, Andrea Nuesser and Benjamin Nyblade, August 2013

abstractIn this paper we critique existing research on citizens’ satisfaction with democracy (SWD) and propose solutions to three problems. First, we argue that SWD should be used in mature democracies more boldly as an indicator of subjective judgments of the quality of democracy. Second, because SWD is an individual-level measure, it requires a great deal more individual-level theory, even if the goal is to learn about the effect of institutions on the quality of democracy. We provide a sketch of that theory. And third, we argue as well that existing research does not provide an appropriate multi-level causal theory and, as a result, uses empirical specifications that do not accurately estimate the causal effect of institutions on SWD. We show examples of the bias and propose solutions. The paper concludes with a call for cumulation of knowledge about SWD through a consensus on its individual-level determinants and a multilevel causal structure for the effect of institutions on it.


"Media Structure, Partisan Bias and Political Satisfaction in Japan"
Zhen Han, Go Murakami and Benjamin Nyblade, July 2013

abstract(How) does the structure of the mass media affect political attitudes? Examining the effect of changes in the structure of TV news in Japan on political attitudes over nearly 40 years of election studies, this paper argues that media structure can have a consistent and substantial influence on mass attitudes towards politics, but that this is mediated by partisanship and political preferences. In Japan, changes in TV news towards a more ‘liberal’ media structure in the mid-1980s, which provided more varied commentary and more cynical and negative portrayal of politics, is associated with lower levels of political satisfaction, but only amongst voters who do not affiliate with the dominant Liberal Democratic Party.


"Multiparty Government and Economic Policy-Making: Coalition Agreements, Prime Ministerial Power and Spending in Western European Cabinets"
Hanna Bäck, Wolfgang Müller and Benjamin Nyblade, July 2013

abstractMultiparty government has often been associated with poor economic policy-making, with distortions like lower growth rates, high budget deficits, high public debt and lower reform capacity. One theoretical argument that has been put forth to explain such effects suggests that coalitions are plagued by so called ‘common pool problems’, where ministers in cabinet are seen as autonomous agents, increasing spending in their own area without considering the overall budget. Drawing on the work of ‘fiscal institutionalists’, we suggest that this view of multiparty government is incomplete and that we need to take into account that coalitions may have established certain control mechanisms to deal with agency problems within cabinets. One such mechanism is the drafting of a comprehensive coalition agreement or ‘contract’ which has the potential to mitigate the common pool problem. We here evaluate and find support for the hypothesis that the presence of a comprehensive coalition agreement reduces the impact of government fragmentation on spending when looking at Western European cabinets. We also present and find empirical support for a conditional hypothesis, suggesting that coalition agreements only reduce the negative effect of government fragmentation in certain instutional settings, more specifically, when prime ministerial power is low, or when there are no ‘power asymmetries’ within the cabinet. Hence, we show that, in some institutional settings, inefficient economic policy-making can be avoided when parties in coalition governments implement certain control mechanisms.


"Ministerial Selection and Deselection in Japan"
Mikitaka Masuyama and Benjamin Nyblade, May 2013

abstractIn this chapter we provide an overview of ministerial selection and deselection in Japan in the postwar period, highlighting the distinctive patterns seen in Japan and discussing their underlying political logic. While certain aspects of ministerial selection and deselection in Japan are well-trod terrain, we present new data on the proximate causes of ministerial termination in the postwar period as well as explore the retention of ministers across cabinets, both areas which have received little previous attention, and highlight several crucial changes that have occurred over the past 65 years.


"Suffrage Beyond Borders: The Extension of Extra-Territorial Voting Rights"
Nathan Allen, Benjamin Nyblade and Angela O'Mahony, April 2013

abstractWhy do countries extend the right to vote to their non-resident citizens? The number of countries granting extra-territorial voting rights increased from only 17 in 1980 to nearly 100 in 2011. This paper analyzes a newly collected dataset on the adoption of extra-territorial voting rights, covering 170 countries around the world from 1980 to 2011. We argue that both domestic and international factors play a crucial role in the adoption of extra-territorial voting rights. Countries with poor economic performance are more likely to adopt extraterritorial voting rights, as are those whose neighbors have extra-territorial voting rights. The former result suggests that vulnerable governments may seek to strategically broaden their base of support, while the latter suggests an important role for policy diffusion, learning and/or regional norm development.


"Political Legitimacy, Satisfaction and Japanese Democracy"
Benjamin Nyblade, July 2012

abstractDespite a long history as a stable and established democracy, political satisfaction in Japan has been comparatively low. Political reforms over the last two decades, intended in part to respond to the causes of political disaffection, have been ineffectual to date in raising political satisfaction. This chapter suggests that it is important to separate political satisfaction from legitimacy conceptually and in practice for the Japanese case. Even though Japanese people have been dissatisfied with politics, democratic legitimacy, and the legitimacy of the political system is high. Recent political reforms may not have increased political satisfaction, but they have enhanced the responsiveness of the political system to the will of the people, likely further enhancing democratic legitimacy in the long run.


"How Parties Count"
Benjamin Nyblade and Angela O'Mahony, June 2012

abstractScholars frequently suggest that the number of political parties in a legislature plays an important role in explaining differential political outcomes cross-nationally. However, there is a disjuncture between most theories as to how the number of parties should influence political outcomes and the most common measure used in cross-national statistical analyses: the effective number of parties (ENP) weighted by their relative size in legislature. Most theories suggest that it is the distribution of bargaining power amongst parties that matters for political outcomes, which is not properly captured by this measure. This article shows that by weighting parties by their bargaining power rather than seat share, scholars can improve measurement validity and statistical analyses.