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Legislator Dissent as a Valence Signal

Abstract

Existing research suggests that voters tend to respond positively to legislator independence due to two types of mechanism. First, dissent has an indirect effect, increasing a legislator’s media coverage and personal recognition among constituents (profile effects). Secondly, constituents react positively to dissent when this signals that the legislator has matching political or representational preferences (conditional evaluation). This article presents a third effect: dissent acts as a valence signal of integrity and trustworthiness. Consistent with the valence signalling mechanism, it uses new observational and experimental evidence to show that British voters have a strong and largely unconditional preference for legislators who dissent. The findings pose a dilemma for political systems that rely on strong and cohesive parties.

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Footnotes
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Department of Politics, Birkbeck, University of London (email: r.campbell@bbk.ac.uk); School of Politics and International Relations, Queen Mary University of London (email: p.cowley@qmul.ac.uk); School of Government and International Affairs, Durham University (email: nick.vivyan@durham.ac.uk); Department of Government, University of Vienna (email: markus.wagner@univie.ac.at). Part of this research was funded by a British Academy Small Research Grant awarded to Nick Vivyan (grant number SG112504). We would also like to thank the University of Nottingham for its generous support. We provide supplementary material in the online appendix. Data replication sets are available at https://dataverse.harvard.edu/dataverse/BJPolS and online appendices are available at http://dx.doi.org/doi:10.1017/S0007123416000223.

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British Journal of Political Science
  • ISSN: 0007-1234
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