DIGSSCORE Seminar: I’m a Survivor: Political Dynamics in Bureaucratic Elites’ Partisan Identification

Benny Geys
Benny Geys

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Benny Geys, Professor in Economics at BI Norwegian Business School in Oslo and Research Professor at Vrije Universiteit Brussel, will present for us today. He will present his article, co-authored with Zuzana Murdoch, Per Lægreid and Susan Yackee, titled "I’m a Survivor: Political Dynamics in Bureaucratic Elites’ Partisan Identification"

The event is in a hybrid format, you are welcome to join us for lunch from the Corner room at DIGSSCORE. Food is provided on a first-come first-served basis. Zoom link for digital attendance.



This article challenges the common assumption that the partisan identification of bureaucratic elites is fixed over time. Building on principal-agent and organization theory, we hypothesize that bureaucratic elites may respond to political turnover by adjusting their partisan identification towards that of their (new) elected principals. We test this prediction using data from the American State Administrators Project (ASAP) over the 1964-2008 period, which allows us to study the same US agency leaders (N=951 individuals) before and after partisan shifts in their agency’s elected principals. We find significant evidence that agency leaders remaining in office following a shift in the party in power on average reorient their partisan identity in response to such turnover events. These adjustments are stronger for agency leaders directly appointed by, or in more frequent contact with, their elected principals. Our results suggest a malleability of partisanship seldom attributed to bureaucratic elites in public and academic discourse.