Rewarding the Top: Citizens' Opposition to Higher Pay for Politicians

Lene Holm Pedersen, Jens Olav Dahlgaard, Rasmus Tue Pedersen

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The rewards of politicians are a key part of the implicit contract between politicians and citizens, and the effect of these rewards on democratic legitimacy and political recruitment is a central concern in public debate and democratic theory. Using a survey experiment, we show how citizens respond to hypothetical changes in politicians’ pay. The results indicate that citizens express lower levels of trust in the politicians when these politicians award themselves higher pecuniary rewards. However, our results also show that a devious strategy in which the rewards for politicians are less transparent ensures lower opposition from citizens than open and transparent strategies. Based on this, we outline a reinvigoration of the research agenda on “rewards at the top.”
Original languageEnglish
JournalScandinavian Political Studies
Issue number2
Pages (from-to)118-137
Number of pages20
Publication statusPublished - 2019

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