How cross-pressured local politicians choose government loyalty over local voters’ preferences. Lessons from a survey experiment in Norway
This study explores how local politicians act when they are torn between local voters’ views and their own views or the party line. Against the background of a recent municipal amalgamation reform in Norway that reduced the number of municipalities from 428 to 356, we conducted a survey experiment where the local representatives (N = 2,013) were treated with different outcomes from a hypothetical municipal referendum about a potential amalgamation. The results show that local officials representing the government parties are less likely to change their voting behaviour if the voters have view different position on the merger than the representative. They have strong incentives to show loyalty to government reform based on both an individual career prospect and from a multilevel governance framework. Unsurprisingly, we find that if voters and representatives share their views on the reform, the representatives will vote in line with the voters.