Do Political Parties Matter

As usual, Freakonomics has an interesting post--this time on the issue of whether political party affiliation matters? The answer appears to be that at the local level, party affiliation does not. Seems to me that this reflects that the issues faced by most Mayors--streets, garbage collection, police and fire protection, etc. have little to do with the ideology that drive our two major political parties:

Do parties matter. That’s the question asked by the Wharton economists Fernando Ferreira and Joseph Gyourko. But they are not talking about national political parties. In that realm, party affiliation has indeed been shown to have a strong effect on legislation and policy. No, Ferreira and Gyourko are interested in whether party affiliation matters on the local level — and their answer, essentially, is no. Using data from more than 4,500 U.S. mayoral elections between 1950 and 2005 in more than 400 cities with populations of at least 25,000, here is what they learned:

[W]e find that party labels do not affect the size of government, the allocation of spending or crime rates, even though there is a large political advantage to incumbency in terms of the probability of winning the next election … In particular, there is a relatively high degree of household homogeneity at the local level that appears to provide the proper incentives for local politicians to be able to credibly commit to moderation and discourages strategic extremism.

Read it all here. Read the study here.


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