Heuristics and political accountability in complex governance: An experimental test

Anthony M. Bertelli, Gregg G. Van Ryzin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


A growing body of empirical work suggests that identifying the actors formally tasked with implementing policy can focus attention away from incumbent politicians. We examine the effects on blame attribution and voting intention of (a) the identifiability of a responsible policy worker (administrator), and (b) the evaluability of the policy work or outcome (policy failure), in the context of programs at two federal agencies (loans by the Small Business Administration and inspections by the U.S. Department of Agriculture). Using a set of online survey experiments with 1105 US adults, we find that the evaluability of a (negative) outcome generally reduces voting intention, but that the identifiability of a policy worker (administrator) tends to shift blame away from the incumbent politician and thus to increase voting intention. These experimental findings provide at least partial support for our theoretical expectations.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalResearch and Politics
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jul 2020

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Public Administration
  • Political Science and International Relations


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