What drives politician attitudes and behaviors in relatively new democracies? To what extent do they work to represent the needs and preferences of their constituents? To what extent do they accept or resist efforts to hold them accountable? Do certain circumstances or particular initiatives produce better politicians?
For several years, while teaching at Princeton, I conducted research on the various challenges to democratic accountability in the context of decentralized and polycentric institutional environments, and in this work, I paid particular attention to local politicians. Here is a link to my Governance of Infectious Disease website (www.princeton.edu/gid), which highlights some of my past research in this area, especially on HIV/AIDS. Despite the great optimism for cooperative or polycentric governance, I show that diffuse accountability mechanisms can lead to substantial under-performance.
More recently, I have been working to develop and to extend this research. Along with Philip Martin (PhD student, MIT) and Nina McMurray (PhD student, MIT), I am working on a project investigating accountability and responsiveness by directly studying African politicians in South Africa. Specifically, we will be studying how these individuals relate to both their constituents and to other political principals (i.e. parties, and other levels of government). This work will be in collaboration with South African faculty and post-graduate students.
Also: Here is a literature review paper that appeared in Lancaster and Van de Walle’s edited volume on Politics in the developing countries, which motivates some of my research.