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Pedro Magalhães

Recent Work

On elections and voting

Transparency, Policy Outcomes, and Incumbent Support
Transparency, Policy Outcomes, and Incumbent Support,” with Luís Aguiar-Conraria and Francisco J. Veiga, Kyklos 72 (3): 357-380 (2019)

Government transparency has been discussed both as a way to decrease informational asymmetries between officeholders and citizens and as part of what makes for procedurally fair governance. These two different lines of argument generate predictions about how transparency should change voters’ reactions to economic and policy outcomes. First, under high transparency, voters should respond less positively to fiscal expansions. Second, they should become more sensitive to incumbents’ ability to deliver outcomes that generate benefits in the long‐run than to current tangible benefits. We test these arguments using municipality level data in Portugal. Controlling for variables that previous research has shown to drive electoral support for incumbents in local elections, only in the least transparent municipalities is support positively related with increases in local current expenditures, budget deficits, and municipal wages. Instead, where transparency is higher, voters are more likely to reward improvements in the quality of education.

What Are the Best Quorum Rules? A Laboratory Investigation
What Are the Best Quorum Rules? A Laboratory Investigation,” with Luís Aguiar-Conraria and Christoph A. Vanberg, Public Choice 185 (1-2): 215-231 (2020).

Many political systems with direct democracy mechanisms have adopted rules preventing decisions from being made by simple majority rule. The device added most commonly to majority rule in national referendums is a quorum requirement. The two most common are participation and approval quorums. Such rules are responses to three major concerns: the legitimacy of the referendum outcome, its representativeness, and protection of minorities regarding issues that should demand a broad consensus. Guided by a pivotal voter model, we conduct a laboratory experiment to investigate the performances of different quorums in attaining such goals. We introduce two main innovations in relation to previous work on the topic. First, part of the electorate goes to the polls out of a sense of civic duty. Second, we test the performances of a different quorum, the rejection quorum, recently proposed in the literature. We conclude that, depending on the preferred criterion, either the approval or the rejection quorum is the best.

Experimental Evidence that Quorum Rules Discourage Turnout and Promote Election Boycotts
Experimental Evidence that Quorum Rules Discourage Turnout and Promote Election Boycotts,” with Luís Aguiar-Conraria and Christoph Vanberg, Experimental Economics 19 (4): 886-909 (December 2016).

Many democratic decision making institutions involve quorum rules. Such rules are commonly motivated by concerns about the “legitimacy” or “representativeness” of decisions reached when only a subset of eligible voters participates. A prominent example of this can be found in the context of direct democracy mechanisms, such as referenda and initiatives. We conduct a laboratory experiment to investigate the consequences of the two most common types of quorum rules: a participation quorum and an approval quorum. We find that both types of quora lead to lower participation rates, dramatically increasing the likelihood of full-fledged electoral boycotts on the part of those who endorse the Status Quo. This discouraging effect is significantly larger under a participation quorum than under an approval quorum.

On public opinion and political attitudes

Public Support for Democracy in the United States Has Declined Generationally
Public Support for Democracy in the United States Has Declined Generationally,” with Christopher Claassen, Public Opinion Quarterly (September 2023)

Support for democracy in the United States, once thought to be solid, has now been shown to be somewhat shaky. One of the most concerning aspects of this declining attachment to democracy is a marked age gap, with younger Americans less supportive of democracy than their older compatriots. Using age-period-cohort analysis of 12 national surveys collected between 1995 and 2019, we show that this age gap is largely a function of a long-term generational decline in support for democracy, with little evidence of an independent life-cycle effect apparent. The combination of generational decline without a positive and counterbalancing life-cycle effect offers a sober prognosis of how support for democracy in the United States might look in the future.

Effective Government and Evaluations of Democracy
Effective Government and Evaluations of Democracy,” with Christopher Claassen, Comparative Political Studies 55 (5): 869-894.

Ineffective governance is known to weaken support for governments and leaders. However, it is less clear whether these effects spill over to the regime and erode support for the democratic system. This paper returns to this classic question, now using time-series, cross-sectional data to test whether the effectiveness of governments in sustaining economic growth, providing quality healthcare, and tackling violent crime affects popular attitudes to democracy. We find that satisfaction with democracy is driven by fluctuations in economic performance and violent crime (but not healthcare quality). Diffuse support for democracy, in contrast, remains rela- tively impervious to changes in government effectiveness. Violent crime is the only indicator of effectiveness which has an impact on democratic support, and does so indirectly, via its influence on democratic satisfaction. These findings confirm that democratic support – which, unlike democratic satisfaction, is thought to help sustain democracy – is mostly immune to crises of performance.
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Populist Governments, Judicial Independence, and Public Trust in the Courts
Populist Governments, Judicial Independence, and Public Trust in the Courts,” with Nuno Garoupa, Journal of European Public Policy. (2023).

Can governments make courts politically compliant without undermining public confidence in the judicial system? Many studies show a positive relationship between judicial independence and citizens’ trust in courts. However, most of them have shown static cross-sectional correlations rather than actual effects of court curbing on trust. Factors such as citizens’ level of education and political preferences may also play a role in moderating reactions to court curbing. We analyse how assaults on judicial independence by populist governments in Turkey, Hungary, and Poland affected judicial trust, using a difference-in-differences approach to Eurobarometer data. While we find evidence that court curbing has an adverse effect on judicial trust, this effect is much clearer among citizens who are ideologically distant from their governments. These findings coincide with experimental evidence indicating how citizens tolerate democratic backsliding, suggesting that, for many, trust in the judicial system can subsist even when courts are made politically subservient.

Constitutional and judicial politics

Judicial Behavior under Austerity: An Empirical Analysis of Behavioral Changes in the Portuguese Constitutional Court, 2002-2016
Judicial Behavior under Austerity: An Empirical Analysis of Behavioral Changes in the Portuguese Constitutional Court, 2002-2016,” with Susana Coroado & Nuno M. Garoupa Journal of Law and Courts, 5 (2):289-311 (Fall 2017) .

The austerity policies pursued in several countries during the Eurozone crisis began to call attention to the role played by courts as relevant actors in the context of budgetary and financial stress. The case of the Portuguese Constitutional Court has often been singled out in national and international forums as one characterized by particularly intense activism in this respect. Allegedly, political conflict around austerity policies and the demand for their judicial review had fundamentally changed the role of the Portuguese Constitutional Court and the behavior of its judges. However, after examining these claims empirically, we find that, when properly assessed with scrutiny of comparable legislation in other periods, the judicial behavior on austerity policies exhibits a much less exceptional pattern than often argued. Constitutional review in Portugal seems to respond to institutional arrangements (i.e., those fostering a central role for ideological preferences and party loyalty) and not to specific business cycles.

Government Survival in Semi-Presidential Regimes
Government Survival in Semi-Presidential Regimes,” with Jorge M. Fernandes, European Journal of Political Research, 55 (1): 61-80 (February 2016).

As semi-presidentialism has become increasingly common in European democracies, so have the debates about the consequences of several of its political and institutional features. In particular, in those regimes, cohabitation between presidents and cabinets of different parties and cabinet dismissal powers on the part of presidents are thought to be a source of inter-branch conflict and government instability. However, so far, most empirical work on government survival has failed to confirm any of these expectations. This article addresses this disjuncture between theory and empirical results by making a twofold contribution. First, it takes into account the internal diversity within semi-presidentialism, modeling the implications for government survival of different configurations between presidential powers’ of cabinet dismissal, parliament dissolution and cohabitation in European semi-presidential systems. Second, it reconsiders traditional government survival using the competing risks framework by adding a distinction between two different types of non-electoral replacement: those where replacements imply a change in the party of the prime minister and those where they do not. Once such an approach is adopted, that presidential powers of parliamentary dissolution and cabinet dismissal indeed emerge as highly relevant for explaining government survival in these regimes.

Explaining the Constitutionalisation of Social Rights: Portuguese Hypotheses and a Cross-National Test
Explaining the Constitutionalisation of Social Rights: Portuguese Hypotheses and a Cross-National Test“, in Denis Gallingan and Mila Versteeg (eds.), Social and Political Foundations of Constitutions. New York: Cambridge University Press).

The most enduring originality of the Portuguese Constitution promulgated in 1976 was the extent to which it recognized and entrenched social welfare rights. The constitutionalisation of these rights has been mostly discussed in terms of its consequences, both in normative and (less often) empirical terms. In this paper, we shift attention to the causes of such constitutionalisation. We argue that the extreme lengths to which constitution-makers went in entrenching social rights in Portugal results from a combination of factors: the nature of the Portuguese regime change in 1974-76 and its consequences in the balance of powers between political and societal actors; the legal traditions and values prevalent in Portuguese society; the legacy of Social Catholicism; and the prevalent Zeitgeist. In the first part of the paper, we analyze the Portuguese case from these different points of view. In the second part of the paper, we test the resulting hypotheses using statistical methods, resorting to a data set on the constitutionalisation of social rights in the current constitutions of the world.

On Portuguese politics

The 2019 Portuguese General Elections
The 2019 Portuguese General Elections,” with Jorge M. Fernandes, West European Politics 43:4: 1038-1050 (2020).

The 2019 Portuguese general elections have led to the formation of another minority government of the Socialist Party. Right-wing parties suffered a resounding defeat. The election had two key consequences. First, after four years of contract parliamentarism with an extreme-left party, the Socialists returned to their historical position of pivotal party in the system. Socialist leader Costa refused to replicate alliances with parties to his left. Second, the 2019 election witnessed the emergence of three new parties, Chega, Iniciativa Liberaland Livre. The election of Chega marks a watershed moment in Portuguese democratic history, as for the first time an extreme-right populist party has gained representation in the country.

A Tale of Two Elections: Information, Motivated Reasoning, and the Economy in the 2011 and 2015 Portuguese Elections
A Tale of Two Elections: Information, Motivated Reasoning, and the Economy in the 2011 and 2015 Portuguese Elections,” Análise Social, 52 (225): 736-758 (2017).

Economic performance is thought to be a powerful driver of incumbent electoral performance, and GDP growth and unemployment to be the “big two” factors involved. However, while in the 2011 elections, under a profound economic recession and growing unemployment, the Socialist incumbents lost about one-fourth of the electorate, the center-right coalition experienced losses of similar magnitude in 2015 under a recovering economy and growing employment. Why has this happened? I explore three hypotheses: (1) the economy became a less salient issue in 2015; (2) responsibility for economic outcomes became more blurred in 2015; and (3) national economic evaluations were more contaminated by partisanship and a ected by cognitive resources and personal economic experiences in 2015.

The Elections of the Great Recession in Portugal: Performance Voting under a Blurred Responsibility for the Economy
The Elections of the Great Recession in Portugal: Performance Voting under a Blurred Responsibility for the Economy,” Journal of Elections, Public Opinion & Parties, 24 (2): 180-202 (2014).

This article discusses the basic patterns of voting behaviour in the most recent elections in Portugal. These elections were fought under one of the most profound economic crises in the country’s four decades of democracy, after a bailout agreement with the EU and the IMF, and under an unusually high level of campaign polarization around the issues of economic austerity and liberalization. First, the article examines whether this context ended up being favourable to “performance” voting or, instead, to an enhanced importance of position issues, particularly those related to the role of the state in the economy and welfare provision. Second, it examines how the context of the Great Recession and the European sovereign debt crisis created opportunities for incumbents to use blame-shifting and blame-sharing strategies, and the extent to which voters’ ambivalence about who to hold responsible for the sorry state of the economy was consequential for vote choices, either by directly affecting them or by moderating the relationship between economic perceptions and the vote.

Em português

O Impacto Social da Pandemia. Estudo ICS/ISCTE Covid-19.
O Impacto Social da Pandemia. Estudo ICS/ISCTE Covid-19,” org. com Pedro Adão e Silva, Rui Costa Lopes e Rita Gouveia. Lisboa: ICS/ISCTE (Abril 2020)
Nem Portugal, nem Europa.
“Nem Portugal, nem Europa,” in AA. VV., 20 anos de opinião pública em Portugal e na Europa. Lisbon: Fundação Francisco Manuel dos Santos, 47-52 (2013).