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Local Elections and the Politics of Small-Scale Democracy$
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J. Eric Oliver, Shang E. Ha, and Zachary Callen

Print publication date: 2012

Print ISBN-13: 9780691143552

Published to Princeton Scholarship Online: October 2017

DOI: 10.23943/princeton/9780691143552.001.0001

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Size, Scope, and Bias: What Differentiates Local Electoral Politics?

Size, Scope, and Bias: What Differentiates Local Electoral Politics?

(p.12) Chapter 1 Size, Scope, and Bias: What Differentiates Local Electoral Politics?
Local Elections and the Politics of Small-Scale Democracy

J. Eric Oliver

Shang E. Ha

Zachary Callen

Princeton University Press

This chapter outlines a relatively simple way of understanding the dynamics of local democracy. Across the universe of democracies, three characteristics are the most powerful and widely applicable predictors of their electoral politics: size, scope, and bias. Once we know a democracy's population (size), the magnitude of its constitutive powers (scope), and how uniformly it distributes its resources (bias), we can predict a great deal about who votes, who runs for office, and whether factors like incumbency, parties, ideology, issues, interest groups, and candidate charisma shape vote choices. In other words, we can best predict how people will vote in a particular election if we first understand what is distinctive about that democracy's politics and, if we know its size, scope, and bias, we can predict what those electoral politics are like. The political dynamics of size, scope, and bias are examined in turn.

Keywords:   local politics, local government, local democracy, population size, constitutive power, resource distribution, electoral politics, political dynamics

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