Who should you vote for? Or, what makes a good mayor?

September 14, 2021

According to a survey ran by the Portuguese Electoral Behavior Project after the local elections in 2001 and 2005, around 50% of the Portuguese inquired voted for the party they preferred and did not take into account other characteristics of its head candidate. Bourdain (2008) explains that these electors voted for the party of preference and not the head candidate because they believed that being a representative of a given political party is the most important characteristic of a politician for policy outcomes.

This paper asks what other characteristics a voter should consider when deciding on whom to vote for.

The paper studies which mayoral characteristics might influence municipalities’ financial performance in terms of public investment, tax revenues, debt, and budget balance. To do so, it uses a dataset composed of 278 Portuguese mainland municipalities spanning annual information on municipalities balance sheets and local elections from 2003 to 2016.

The paper has four main findings. First, both younger and older mayors are associated with higher and unsustainable debt levels. Second, differences in gender are not associated with a better or worse municipality performance. Third, longer tenured mayors invest more while more educated mayors invest less. Fourth, political party affiliation is not associated with either good or bad municipality financial performance.

In sum, although most of the Portuguese voters only consider candidates’ political affiliation when deciding on whom to vote for, this paper does not find any significant relation between this characteristic on the financial indicators that were analyzed. The results thus question the way Portuguese vote by arguing that, when voting for local government representatives, they should care about other characteristics among candidates besides their political affiliation.

Click here to go to the paper by Ricardo Duque Gabriel.