Political institutions, public management, and bureaucratic performance: political-bureaucratic interactions and their effect on policy outcomes
Hawes, Daniel Prophet
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This project examines the determinants of political responsiveness to bureaucratic performance. A large literature exists that has examined how bureaucratic agencies are responsive to political institutions. While policy theory contends that the reverse is also true ? that is, political institutions engage in political assessment of policies ? there is little empirical literature examining this important question. Indeed, research in public administration suggests that political responsiveness only occurs following massive bureaucratic failure or policy crises. Using data from Texas public school districts, this dissertation explores the role of policy salience in determining the likelihood of political responsiveness to bureaucratic outputs and outcomes. The findings suggest that issue salience is the key determinant of political involvement in administration. Furthermore, this project incorporates the concepts of descriptive and substantive representation in examining these questions. The results indicate that policy salience depends on the composition of the interests of political institutions. Furthermore, race and ethnicity work to shape those preferences and, in turn, condition what policy makers deem as salient. The findings suggest that descriptively unrepresentative political institutions are less likely to be responsive to the needs of those who are not represented (e.g. Latino students). Thus, representation is central to political responsiveness when the policy outputs or outcomes in question are not universally salient. Finally, this project examines whether political institutions can influence policy outcomes, and, more importantly, what factors ? environmental, organizational, managerial ? either facilitate or constrain the political influence of elected officials. The findings suggest that goal and preference alignment between political institutions and bureaucratic agencies is critical in enhancing political influence ? a finding that is commonly argued in formal models of political control, but rarely tested empirically. This research also finds that bureaucratic power or independence can work to hinder political influence of policy outputs.