The Journal of Politics


Representation and Policy Responsiveness: The Median Voter, Election Rules, and Redistributive Welfare Spending

Shin-Goo Kanga1 and G. Bingham Powell Jr.a2

a1 Korea University

a2 University of Rochester


Many economic and social conditions shape public welfare spending. We are able to show, however, that after taking account of these conditions, the expressed left-right preferences of the median voters significantly affect comparative welfare spending. These new findings support the representational claims of liberal democracy and the theoretical expectations of the literature on ideological congruence. However, we also show that insofar as the preferences of citizens and the promises of governing parties (which are highly correlated,) can be disentangled, it is the former that affect the long-term redistributive welfare spending equilibrium, while the latter have small, but significant short-term effects. Surprisingly, despite greater representational correspondence between positions of voters and governments under PR than SMD, the impact of the median voter preferences is quite similar under the two systems.

(Received January 23 2009)

(Accepted March 01 2010)


Shin-Goo Kang is Research Professor, Peace & Democracy Institute, Korea University, San 5-1 ga, Anam-dong, Seung-Buk-gu, Seoul, Republic of Korea.

G. Bingham Powell Jr. is Professor of Political Science, University of Rochester, Rochester, New York 14627.