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Party-constrained Policy Responsiveness: A Survey Experiment on Politicians’ Response to Citizen-initiated Contacts

  • Patrik Öhberg and Elin Naurin

How do individual party representatives respond to direct policy requests from citizens when the requests go against the party’s position? In a survey experiment, 2,547 Swedish politicians are randomly assigned to scenarios in which citizens make contact to influence a political decision. Their willingness to respond to citizens’ policy requests is measured using six indicators that capture adaptive as well as communicative responsiveness. The results show a lower willingness to adapt and to communicate when the request disagrees with the party’s position. The effect is mitigated when politicians agree with the proposal and when likely voters make contact, but only for listening and adaptive responses, not for explaining responses (which have the opposite relationship). Important findings for future research are that the party matters for politicians’ responsiveness and that their willingness to give explaining responses follows a different logic than for listening and adaptive responses.

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Department of Political Science, University of Gothenburg (emails, The order of the authors’ names does not describe the contribution made to the article. Both authors have contributed equally to the manuscript. Support for this research was provided by the Swedish Research Council, the COFAS Marie Curie Fellowship Program and Riksbankens Jubileumsfond. We are indebted to the Laboratory of Opinion Research, University of Gothenburg, as well as to the Center for the Study of Democratic Citizenship in Quebec. The authors would like to thank André Blais, Damien Bol, Daniel M. Butler, Delia Dumitrescu, Peter Esaiasson, Stuart Soroka and Dietlind Stolle. Data replication sets and online appendices are available at

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British Journal of Political Science
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  • EISSN: 1469-2112
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