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The motivational basis of constituency work: how intrinsic and extrinsic motivations interact

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  14 May 2019

Nathalie Giger
Department of political science, University of Geneva, Geneve, Switzerland
Simon Lanz
Department of political science, University of Geneva, Geneve, Switzerland
Catherine de Vries*
Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, Amsterdam, The Netherlands
*Corresponding author. E-mail:


Behavioral economists and social psychologists have shown that extrinsic motivations can crowd out intrinsic motivations to act. This study examines this crowding out effect in the context of legislative behavior. By exploiting the federal nature of Swiss elections, we examine if response rates to requests of voters residing inside or outside a candidate's district vary based on the electoral competition candidate legislators face. We report two main findings. First, we find a high response rate among Swiss candidates (66 percent) which remains high for voters who reside outside a candidate's district (59 percent) suggesting that intrinsic motivations are a key driver of constituency effort. Second, the response to voters who reside inside a candidate's district is more pronounced for candidates confronted with a high degree of electoral competition. This suggests that extrinsic motivations are important for constituency work, but at the same time their presence might crowd out intrinsic motivations. This evidence suggests that the relationship between electoral competition and responsiveness might be less straightforward than assumed.

Original Articles
Copyright © The European Political Science Association 2019

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