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04.2 Program for the Study of Germany and Europe

Democratic Contestation, Accountability, and Citizen Satisfaction at the Regional Level

2004 – Endre M. Tvinnereim


Democratic theory tells us that competition between political parties fosters more responsive government by disciplining elected leaders. Yet party competition may not always attain the levels desirable for holding leaders accountable, notably at the sub-national level. This paper hypothesizes that variations in competition-induced accountability affect regional, or state, government behavior, and that this variation is reflected in citizen satisfaction with regional government performance. The hypothesis is confirmed using survey data from sixty-eight German state election studies. Specifically, a widening of the gap between the two main parties of each state is shown to affect subsequent individual-level satisfaction negatively. This finding presents a conjecture that should be generalizable to other countries with strong sub-national units.