Strategic Delegation? How Legislative Political Elites Respond to Electoral Uncertainty

Mona Vakilifathi
Legislative Studies Quarterly

What is the effect of electoral uncertainty on a legislature’s preference for bureaucratic insulation? Previous research argues that an increase in electoral uncertainty results in an increase in a legislature’s preference for bureaucratic insulation, delegation of a program to an independent agency or multiple agencies, for a government-regulated program. However, there is disagreement among political scientists on how to conceptually or empirically measure electoral uncertainty and bureaucratic insulation. I use the common conceptual definitions of electoral uncertainty and bureaucratic insulation from the legislative delegation literature in a within-subject experiment of U.S. state legislators and legislative staff to assess the causal effect of electoral uncertainty on their preference for one of the four strategies of bureaucratic insulation. Once a legislature is subject to electoral uncertainty, I find that the respondents are more likely to delegate to an independent agency and multiple agencies that collectively implement a program.

Wagner Faculty