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Public Policy Investment: Risk and Return in British Politics

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  07 December 2012

Abstract

This article sets out and tests a theory of public policy investment – how democratic governments seek to enhance their chances of re-election by managing a portfolio of policy priorities for the public, analogous to the relationship between investment manager and client. Governments choose policies that yield returns the public values; and rebalance their policy priorities later to adjust risk and stabilize return. Do the public reward returns to policy capital or punish risky policy investments? The article investigates whether returns to policy investment guide political management and statecraft. Time-series analyses of risk and return in Britain 1971–2000 reveal that risk and return on government policy portfolios predict election outcomes, and that returns, risk profiles and the uncertainty in public signals influence the prioritization of policies.

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Articles
Copyright
Copyright © Cambridge University Press 2012 

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Footnotes

*

USC Price School of Public Policy, USC Gould School of Law, University of Southern California (email: bertelli@usc.edu); and School of Public Policy, University College London, respectively (email: peter.john@ucl.ac.uk). The authors have greatly benefited from the comments of David Barker, Laura Chaqués, Scott Desposato, Keith Dowding, Patrick Dunleavy, Francesca Gains, Christoffer Green-Pedersen, Stephen Greasley, Will Jennings, Bryan Jones, Christopher Kam, George Krause, John Matsusaka, David Nixon, Oguzhan Ozbas, Anna Palau, Kaare Strøm, Andrew Whitford, Jonathan Woon and those of seminar participants at the University of California, Los Angeles; University College London; the London School of Economics; the University of Pittsburgh; the University of Hawaii-Manoa; the University of Manchester; the Montesquieu Institute, Den Haag and panel participants at the European Political Science Association 1st Annual Conference, Dublin, 2011. They also wish to thank three anonymous referees and the Editor, Hugh Ward, for their attention to and engagement with the manuscript. They acknowledge generous support from the UK Economic and Social Research Council (grant reference R105938). An appendix containing Annex 1 can be viewed at http://www.journals.cambridge.org/jps.

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87 A paired sample t-test that Heath faced larger factor loadings than a pool of other premiers in regard to environment and natural resources upholds the claim for the foreign policy (|t| = 2.093, p = 0.023) and cost of living (|t| = 3.137, p = 0.002) factors.

88 A paired sample t-test that Heath faced smaller factor loadings than a pool of other premiers in regard to infrastructure and investment supports the claim for the foreign policy (|t| = 1.496, p = 0.073), cost of living (|t| = 1.461, p = 0.073), and government personnel (|t| = 1.886, p = 0.035) factors.

89 A paired sample t-test that the Wilson and Callaghan governments pooled together faced smaller factor loadings than a pool of other premiers in regard to law, order and civil rights supports the claim for the foreign policy (|t| = 1.789, p = 0.042), cost of living (|t| = 2.308, p = 0.014), and government personnel (|t| = 1.657, p = 0.054) factors.

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101 By asset, speech from the throne investment weights are distributed as follows: social policy (mean = 9.07, SD = 4.79), foreign and defence (mean = 43.55, SD = 9.57), macro-economic policy (mean = 18.62, SD = 5.25), environment and natural resources (mean = 10.00, SD = 3.74), and law, order and civil rights (mean = 7.58, SD = 3.36).

102 By asset, returns are distributed as follows: social policy (mean = −11.22, SD = 84.82), foreign and defence (mean = −9.18, SD = 29.63), macro-economic policy (mean = 29.46, SD = 344.90), environment and natural resources (mean = −1.45, SD = 11.89), and law, order and civil rights (mean = −72.54, SD = 282.07).

103 By asset, price signal uncertainty is distributed as follows: social policy (mean = 186.40, SD = 375.22), foreign and defence (mean = 51.55, SD = 52.39), macro-economic policy (mean = 595.99, SD = 641.42), Environment and Natural Resources (mean = 30.34, SD = 40.35), and law, order and civil rights (mean = 361.70, SD = 441.69).

104 By asset, factor instability is distributed as follows: social policy (mean = 3.25, SD = 1.89), foreign and defence (mean = 3.27, SD = 1.96), macro-economic policy (mean = 3.74, SD = 1.75), environment and natural resources (mean = 1.16, SD = 2.25), and law, order and civil rights (mean = 4.31, SD = 2.09).

105 By asset, manifesto investment weights are distributed as follows: social policy (mean = 15.40, SD = 3.69), foreign and defence (mean = 11.41, SD = 3.12), macro-economic policy (mean = 29.12, SD = 7.69), environment and natural resources (mean = 8.57, SD = 3.57), and law, order and civil rights (mean = 17.47, SD = 6.51).

106 King, Gary, Tomz, Michael and Wittenberg, Jason, ‘Making the Most of Statistical Analyses: Improving Interpretation and Presentation’, American Journal of Political Science, 44 (2000), 341355CrossRefGoogle Scholar

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