Government checking government: How performance measures expand distributive politics

Anthony M. Bertelli, Peter John

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This paper argues that distributive politics operates in a variety of contexts in which governments seek to check the behavior of other governments. We provide a novel theoretical account of performance measurement systems as political discipline mechanisms even when measures are compiled by formally independent administrative agencies. We test the implications of our theory using a dataset of performance ratings in English local government assessed between 2002 and 2006. Results suggest that political influence favors swing voters, and local authorities sharing party affiliation with the incumbent central government are favored over those controlled by the opposition. Evidence further suggests that the independent rater in our empirical case is influenced through ties between its membership and the local authorities that it regulates. Our theoretical argument and findings have implications for many national and international contexts.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)545-558
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Politics
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 2010

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sociology and Political Science


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