Is it All Good in the Neighborhood? How Partisanship May Distort Evaluations of Municipal Services


Do voters retrospectively evaluate municipal services? Previous work within local politics would suggest that voters form their evaluations based on the quality of the service and their access to it. Instead, I argue that voters evaluate associated services through a partisan lens rather than objective performance due to the nationalization of a particular state and local political issues. This process occurs when local services become polarized at the national level, with the two parties being associated with distinct and opposing views on those services. I attempt to test this argument through a cross-sectional analysis of local school and police evaluations. The results confirm that for polarized services such as policing, individuals have a systematic bias in favor of their party’s position regardless of the service’s objective performance. Additionally, I find that this bias exists regardless of the partisan control of state and local governments. These findings provide insight as to how nationalization shapes retrospective evaluations of government performance and carry with them implications for the future of local accountability.

Lucas D. Boschelli
Lucas D. Boschelli
Ph.D. Candidate

My research interests include distributed robotics, mobile computing and programmable matter.