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Electoral Institutions, Hometowns, and Favored Minorities: Evidence from Japanese Electoral Reforms

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  13 June 2011

Shigeo Hirano
University of Washington,
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This article presents evidence that electoral institutions affect the geographic distribution of both candidate electoral support and government resources. The author exploits two electoral reforms in Japan to identify the effect of institutional incentives: (1) the 1994 electoral reform from a multimember single nontransferable vote (SNTV) system to a mixed-member majoritarian (MMM) system with a single-member district (SMD) component and a proportional representation component; and (2) the 1925 electoral reform from a predominantly SMD system to a multimember SNTV system. Using several new data sets, the two main findings of this article are that (1) Japanese representatives competing in multimember SNTV districts had more geographically concentrated electoral support than those competing in SMDs and that (2) intergovernmental transfers appear to be more concentrated around Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) incumbents' home offices under the multimember SNTV system than under the MMM system. The findings in this article highlight the connection between institutions and geographic patterns of representation.

Research Article
Copyright © Trustees of Princeton University 2006

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1 See, for example, Ames, Barry, “Electoral Strategy under Open-List Proportional Representation,” American Journal of Political Science 88 (March 1995)Google Scholar; Cain, Bruce, Ferejohn, John, and Fiorina, Morns, The Personal Vote: Constituency Service and Electoral Independence (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1987)CrossRefGoogle Scholar; Carey, John M. and Shugart, Matthew S., “Incentives to Cultivate a Personal Vote: A Rank Ordering of Electoral Formulas,” Electoral Studies 14 (December 1995)CrossRefGoogle Scholar; Cox, Gary W., “Electoral Equilibria under Alternative Voting Institutions,” American Journal of Political Science 31 (February 1987)CrossRefGoogle Scholar; idem, “Centripetal and Centrifugal Incentives in Electoral Systems,” American Journal of Political Science 34 (November 1990)Google Scholar; Lizzeri, Alessandro and Persico, Nicola, “The Provision of Public Goods under Alternative Electoral Incentives,” American Economic Review 91 (March 2001)CrossRefGoogle Scholar; Myerson, Roger B., ‘Incentives to Cultivate Favored Minorities under Alternative Electoral Systems,” American Political Science Review 87 (December 1993)CrossRefGoogle Scholar; and Pekkanen, Robert, Nyblade, Benjamin, and Krauss, Ellis S., “Electoral Incentives in Mixed-Member Systems: Party Posts and Zombie Politicians in Japan,” American Political Science Review 100 (May 2006)CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

2 See, for example, Crisp, Brian F. and Ingall, Rachel E., “Institutional Engineering and the Nature of Representation: Mapping the Effects of Electoral Reform in Colombia,” American Journal of Political Science 46 (October 2002)CrossRefGoogle Scholar; Otake, Hideo, How Electoral Reform Boomeranged (Tokyo: Japan Center for International Exchange, 1998)Google Scholar; and McKean, Margaret and Scheiner, Ethan, “Japan's New Electoral System: La Plus Ca Change . . . ,” Electoral Studies 19 (December 2000)CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

3 Myerson (fn. 1). Gary W. Cox's models develop a similar logic for relationships between electoral institutions and dispersion of candidates’ policy positions along a unidimensional policy space. See Cox (fn. 1,1990).

4 See, for example, Ames, Barry, Deadlock of Democracy (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2001)CrossRefGoogle Scholar; Crisp and Ingall (fn. 2); Crisp, Brian F. and Desposato, Scott, “Constituency Building in Multimember Districts: Collusion or Conflict?,” Journal of Politics 66 (February 2004)CrossRefGoogle Scholar; Curtis, Gerald, Election Campaigning Japanese Style (New York: Columbia University Press, 1971)Google Scholar; Sacks, Paul M., The Donegal Mafia: An Irish Political Machine (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1976)Google Scholar.

5 Although the Japanese Diet has both Upper and Lower Houses, in this article I focus on the Lower House elections. The Lower House is also referred to as the House of Representatives. Elections for the Lower House are held every four years, unless there is a vote of no confidence in the Diet. The Lower House is considered more powerful than the Upper House. For example, the Lower House can pass legislation without Upper House approval.

6 Myerson (fn. 1).

7 Cox (fn. 1,1987,1990).

8 Myerson, Roger B., “Theoretical Comparisons of Electoral Systems,” European Economic Review 43 (April 1999)CrossRefGoogle Scholar. This discussion closely follows the discussion on page 679 of the Myerson article.

9 Myerson calculates where K is the number of candidates. Since the number of candidates is usually not known for certain in advance, the above example presents the case where there is minimal competition. If candidates knew for certain that there would be more candidates then the threshold, Q ., would be even smaller.

10 Christensen, Ray, “The Effects of Electoral Reforms on Campaign Practices in Japan: Putting New Wine into Old Bottles,” Asian Survey 38 (October 1998)CrossRefGoogle Scholar; and Krauss, Ellis S. and Pekkanen, Robert, “Explaining Party Adaptation to Electoral Reform: The Discreet Charm of the LDP?,” Journal of Japanese Studies 30 (Winter 2004)Google Scholar.

11 Ramseyer, J. Mark and Rosenbluth, Frances M., Japan's Political Marketplace (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1993)Google Scholar; idem, The Politics of Oligarchy (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1995)Google Scholar; McCubbins, Matthew D. and Rosenbluth, Frances M., “Party Provision for Personal Politics: Dividing the Vote in Japan,” in Cowhey, Peter F. and McCubbins, Matthew D., eds., Structure and Policy in Japan and the United States (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1995)Google Scholar.

12 Section VI examines the effect of the 1925 institutional change.

13 One district, the Anami Island, is a single-member district.

14 Ramseyer and Rosenbluth (fn. 11,1995).

15 Reed, Steven and write, Michael Thies, “Japan has often been cited as holding down the extreme end of candidate-based personalistic politics.” See Reed and Thies, “The Consequences of Electoral Reform in Japan,” in Shugart, Matthew S. and Wattenberg, Martin P., eds., Mixed Member Electoral Systems: The Best of Both Worlds? (New York: Oxford University Press, 2001), 390Google Scholar.

16 Bouissou, Jean-Marie, “Organizing One's Support Base under the SNTV: The Case of Japanese Koenkai,” in Grofman, Bernard, Lee, Sung-Chull, Winckler, Edwin A., and Woodall, Brian, eds., Elections in Japan, Korea, and Taiwan under the Single-Nontransferable Vote: The Comparative Study of an Embedded Institution (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1999)Google Scholar; Curtis (fn. 4); Curtis, Gerald, The Japanese Way of Politics (New York: Columbia University Press, 1988)Google Scholar; Iwai, Tomoaki, Seiji Shikin no Kenkyu (Tokyo: Nihon Keizai Shimbunsha, 1990)Google Scholar; Thayer, Nathaniel B., How the Conservatives Rule Japan (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1976)Google Scholar.

17 Curtis, Gerald, “Japan,” in Butler, David and Ranney, Austin, eds., Electioneering: A Comparative Study of Continuity and Change (New York: Oxford University Press, 1992)Google Scholar; Fukui, Harushiro and Fukai, Shigeko N., “Pork Barrel Politics, Networks, and Local Economic Development in Contemporary Japan,” Asian Survey 36 (March 1996)CrossRefGoogle Scholar; Scheiner, Ethan, “Pipelines of Pork: A Model of Local Opposition Party Failure,” Comparative Political Studies 38 (September 2005)CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

18 Fukui and Fukai (fn. 17), 268.

19 Pork-barrel projects have benefits beyond the areas where the projects are built. These projects bring campaign contributions to the LDP organization, factions, and candidates that could be used to support the koenkai activities of candidates in any location. See Woodall, Brian, Japan under Construction: Corruption, Politics, and Public Works (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1996)Google Scholar.

20 Doi, Takero, The Political Economy of Japanese Local Finance (Tokyo: Toyo Keizai Shimposha, 2001)Google Scholar; Hirose, Michisada, Hojokin to Seikento [Subsidies and the Ruling Party] (Tokyo: Asahi Shinbunsha, 1981)Google Scholar; and Horiuchi, Yusaku and Saito, Jun, “Reapportionment and Redistribution: Consequences of Electoral Reform in Japan,” American Journal of Political Science 47 (October 2003)CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

21 Richardson, Bradley, Japanese Democracy: Power, Coordination, and Performance (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1997), 28Google Scholar.

22 Schlesinger, Jacob M., Shadow Shoguns: The Rise and Fall of Japan's Postwar Political Machine (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1997), 104Google Scholar.

23 Curtis (fn. 4), 87.

24 Thayer (fn. 16), 98.

25 In describing koenkai locations, a reporter from the Mainichi Shimbun stated, “Most of them center on the Dietman's birthplace and few other pockets in the district.” See Thayer (fn. 16), 103.

26 In describing Alabama politics in the 1930s and 40s, V. O. Key writes: Almost any local leader with any prospects at all who aspires for state office can cut into the strength of established state leaders or factions within his own immediate bailiwick. He gains support, not primarily for what he stands for or because of his capacities, but because of where he lives. A more or less totally irrelevant appeal—back the hometown boy—can exert no little influence over an electorate not habituated to the types of voting behavior characteristic of a two-party situation. See Key, Southern Politics in State and Nation (1977; Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press, 1984), 41Google Scholar. However, in Key's “friends and neighbors” analysis, hometowns matter to voters to the extent that there are no strong partisan or factional divisions.

27 Flanagan, , “Voting Behavior in Japan: The Persistence of Traditional Patterns,” Comparative Political Studies 1, no. 3 (1968), 402CrossRefGoogle Scholar. Flanagan and Bradley M. Richardson write: “What we find among many Japanese voters is a parochial and particularistic political outlook—a local rather than a national consciousness, an emphasis on special benefits for one's local area (jimoto rieki) and a preference for identifying with proximate candidates and personalities rather than more distant and intangible political objects such as national party labels, ideological issues and national leaders.” See Flanagan, and Richardson, , Japanese Electoral Behavior: Social Cleavages, Social Networks, and Partisanship (London: Sage Publications, 1977), 52Google Scholar.

28 Richardson (fn. 21) 32.

29 Flanagan, Scott C., “Mechanisms of Social Network Influence in Japanese Voting Behavior,” in Flanagan, Scott C., Kohei, Shinsaku, Miyake, Ichiro, and Richardson, Bradley M., eds., The Japanese Voter (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1991)Google Scholar; Richardson, Bradley M., “Japanese Local Politics: Support Mobilization and Leadership Styles,” Asian Survey 7, no. 12 (1967)CrossRefGoogle Scholar; Richardson (fn. 21); Steiner, Kurt, Local Government in Japan (Stanford, Calif.: Stanford University Press, 1965)Google Scholar; and Cox, Gary W., Rosenbluth, Frances, and Thies, Michael M., “Mobilization, Social Networks, and Turnout: Evidence from Japan,” World Politics 50 (April 1998)CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

30 McCubbins and Rosenbluth (fn. 11).

31 Inoguchi, Takashi and Iwai, Tomoaki, Zokugun no kenkyu: Jiminto o gyujiru shuyakutachi [A Study of Zoku Diet Members] (Tokyo: Nihon Keizai Shimbunsha, 1987)Google Scholar.

32 According to Curtis, LDP incumbents who lose an election are more likely to win the next election because they can spend more time campaigning in the district and do not have to be engaged in activities in Tokyo. See Curtis (fn. 4).Tatebayashi and McKean present a theory and evidence for why LDP candidates may differentiate themselves along policy dimensions instead of geographic lines. See Tatebayashi, Masahiko and McKean, Margaret, “Voting Division and Policy Differentiation Strategies of LDP members under SNTV/MMD in Japan” (Manuscript, Department of Political Science, Duke University, 2001)Google Scholar; and Tatebayashi, Masahiko, The Logic of Legislators’ Activities: Institutional Analysts of LDP Dominance in Japan (Tokyo: Yuhikaku, 2004)Google Scholar.

33 Ozawa, Ichiro, Blueprint for a New Japan: The Rethinking of a Nation (Tokyo: Kodansha International, 1994), 68Google Scholar.

34 This was later reduced to 180 in the 2000 Lower House election.

35 Carey and Shugart (fn. 1); Shugart, Matthew S., “‘Extreme’ Electoral Systems and the Appeal of the Mixed-Member Alternative,” in Shugart, Matthew S. and Wattenberg, Martin P., eds., Mixed Member Electoral Systems: The Best of Both Worlds? (New York: Oxford University Press, 2001)Google Scholar.

36 Carey and Shugart (fn. 1), 429.

37 Otake (fn. 2); McKean and Scheiner (fn. 2); Christensen (fh. 10); and Krauss and Pekkanen (fn. 10).

38 Christensen (fn. 10) describes how in the 1996 election, former Socialist members would cultivate constituencies, such as construction firms and veterans’ organizations, that traditionally voted for conservative candidates.

39 The jiban were relatively stable over time despite changes in electoral competition. This is evident in the electoral maps of candidates’ vote shares for the 1986 Lower House election in the same Akita 2nd district after one of the LDP candidates retired and a new conservative candidate replaced him. The new conservative candidate, Minorikawa Hidefumi, has the same hometown And jiban as the retired LDP candidate Nemoto Ryutaro. Although Minorikawa ran as an independent, he received factional support from the LDP faction leader Abe Shintaro, so it was clear that he was essentially an LDP candidate. The three conservative candidates and two JSP candidates all have the same configuration of hometowns and jiban in the 1986 Lower House election as in the 1983 Lower House election. Electoral maps of the 1980 and 1990 Lower House elections reveal continued stability in candidates’ jibun patterns.

40 The municipal-level electoral data for the Lower House elections come from the JED-M data set. This data set contains candidate vote totals for elections under the multimember SNTV system and both candidate and PR vote totals for elections under the MMM system. See Tokifumi Mizusaki, Sosenkyo Deta Besu:JED-MDeta Version 2.0 (Tokyo: Eru De Bi, n.d.).

41 When this variable is dropped from the analysis, the substantive findings remain the same.

42 The Upper House PR data come from the Asahi Newspaper. See Asahi Newspaper de miru ‘98 saninsen no subete [A Complete View of the ‘98 Upper House Election by] (Tokyo: Asahi Shinbunsha Denshi Denpa Mediakyoku, c1998).

43 The choice set issue would not be a problem if all the voters who vote for parties not represented in the SMD election vote for a non-LDP party. To determine whether the choice set difference had a large effect on the coefficients on the distance variables, the sixteen districts where the SMD choice set consisted of an LDP candidate, an NFP candidate, and a JCP candidate are examined for 1996. The PR vote for the non-LDP parties who are on the PR ballot but not in the SMD are included. Including these PR covariates does not significantly change the magnitudes of the coefficients of interest.

44 This information is from the Asahi Newspaper. See Newspaper, de miru ‘96 sosenkyo no subete [A Complete View of the ‘96 General Election by] (Tokyo: Asahi Shinbunsha Denshi Denpa Mediakyoku, 1996)Google Scholar.

45 Information about home offices comes from the Seiji Handobukku. SeeTakayoshi Miyakawa, ed., Seiji Handobukku [Handbook of Politics] (Tokyo: Seiji Koho Senta, various issues).

46 In all cases the comparisons are made across the boundaries of the SMDs since the SMDS’ boundaries in most cases are a subset of a multimember district. SMDs containing segments of more than one multimember district are excluded from the sample.

47 The results from an overdispersed binomial regression and a binomial with random effects regression are available upon request. The substantive findings do not differ significantly from those presented in this section.

48 A least squares model with weights for the number of the voters in each municipality produces substantively similar results.

49 Statistical significance is taken to be the standard 5 percent level.

50 Distance starts to have a positive effect for municipalities farther than 140 kilometers away from the hometown. These municipalities are for the most part small islands far from the mainland.

51 A least squares model with weights for the number of the voters in each municipality produces substantively similar results.

52 Observations are dropped when an SMD contained more than one multimember district or when an SMD contained fewer than five municipalities. The substantive findings do not change when these observations are included.

53 As discussed in Section II, the Myerson model predicts that candidates in multimember SNTV systems will appeal to narrow subconstituencies, but Myerson's model does not specify that these subconstituencies have to be geographically defined. The difference in the magnitude of the distance coefficient between the LDP and non-LDP candidates may reflect the lower level of within-district intraparty competition among the non-LDP candidates. Non-LDP candidates can rely on their party labels to appeal to narrow subconstituencies that have partisan preferences but may not be geographically defined. By contrast, the LDP candidates competing against numerous other LDP candidates are forced to use their resources to cultivate geographically defined subconstituencies in order to differentiate themselves from their copartisans. As mentioned in Section III, some LDP candidates may differentiate themselves from their copartisans based on their policy positions and not on their hometown locations. The conditions under which politicians will choose to appeal to geographically versus nongeographically based subconstituencies is an area that deserves further research.

54 Ramseyer and Rosenbluth (fn. 11,1995), 47, 50.

55 See Ramseyer and Rosenbluth (fn. 11,1995). The change in the electoral institutions coincided with an extension of suffrage. In 1925 the tax qualification was abolished and the number of eligible voters quadrupled. See Chitoshi Yunaga, Japanese People and Politics (New York: John Wiley and Sons, 1956)Google Scholar. The introduction of so many new voters should bias the results against finding an increase in the concentration of candidates’ electoral support.

56 Ramseyer and Rosenbluth (fn. 11,1995), 52.

57 The electoral data come from the Dai 15 Kai Shugiingiin Sousenkyo Ichiran and the Dai 16 Kai Shugiingiin Sousenkyo Ichiran. See Shugiin Jimukyoku, Dai 15 Kai Shugiingiin Sousenkyo Ichiran [15th House of Representative General Election Summary] (Tokyo: Shugiin Jimukyoku); and Shugiin Jimukyoku, Dai 16 Kai Shugiingiin Sousenkyo Ichiran [16th House of Representative General Election Summary] (Tokyo: Shugiin Jimukyoku).

58 See, for example, Levitt, Stephen D. and Snyder, James M. Jr., “Political Parties and the Distribution of Federal Outlays,” American Journal of Political Science 39 (November 1995)CrossRefGoogle Scholar; Case, Anne, “Election Goals and Income Redistribution: Recent Evidence from Albania,” European Economic Review 45 (March 2001)CrossRefGoogle Scholar; Bickers, Kenneth N. and Stein, Robert M., Federal Domestic Outlays, 1983–1990: A Data Book (Armonk, N.Y.: M. E. Sharpe, 1991)Google Scholar; Dahlberg, Matz and Johansson, Eva, “On the Vote- Purchasing Behavior of Incumbent Governments,” American Political Science Review 96 (March 2001)Google Scholar; and Denemark, David, “Partisan Pork Barrel in Parliamentary Systems: Australian Constituency-Level Grants “Journal of Politics 62 (August 2000)Google Scholar.

39 Ames (fn. 4); Crisp and Ingall (fn. 2).

60 These data come from the Nikkei NEEDS Database. I focus on kokko shishutsukin rather than on the chiho kofuzei (local allocation tax), which are unconditional grants from the central government to localities, because the national government is perceived to have more discretion over the year-toyear distribution of the kokko sktshutsukin. See, for example, Yonehara, Junshichiro, “Relations between National and Local Governments,” in Shibata, Tokue, ed., Japan's Public Sector: How Government Is Financed (Tokyo: University of Tokyo Press, 1993), 176Google Scholar.

61 The subsidy and income data are adjusted to their real value in 2000. This consumer price index data comes from–12.xls.

62 See Miyakawa (fn. 45).

63 The calculation of municipality fiscal strength follows Horiuchi and Saito (fn. 20). It is the ratio of local tax revenue to an estimate of local fiscal demand. This index is perceived to have a large role in the allocation of unconditional grants from the national government to localities (chiho kofuzei kofukin) and a relatively smaller role in the allocation of conditional grants (kokko shishutsukin).

64 Data for these variables come from the Nikkei NEEDS Database.

65 Municipalities more than 150 kilometers from an LDP candidate's home office tend to be small islands far from the mainland.

66 Legislators can still adjust subsidies even after the fiscal budgets have been passed, in particular, when supplemental budgets are passed later during the fiscal year.

67 For example, Horiuchi and Saito (fn. 20) argue that the size of the municipality should matter because larger municipalities require more construction projects.

68 In a separate analysis not shown here, LDP electoral support is also included in the regression to test whether subsidy distribution is primarily given to areas that are LDP strongholds, as was found to be the case in the United States. If the party, not the LDP incumbents, is distributing subsidy allocations, then we might expect the LDP organization to direct government transfers to the LDP's electoral support bases. This variable is only marginally significant in one out of the four specifications. Including this variable does not change the substantive findings in Table 2.

69 Missing observations were simply listwise deleted.

70 In the log specifications the Minimum Distance variable is increased by 1.

71 The statistical significance of the coefficient on the distance variables in specifications 4 and 8 are particularly sensitive to the inclusion of the Dependent Population variable. The coefficients on the distance variables are statistically significant in all specifications when the Dependent Population variable is excluded or also interacted with the Post Reform variable. The statistical significance of the results is also sensitive to the level at which observations are clustered.

72 See, for example, Carey and Shugart (fn. 1).

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