Institutional sources of legitimate authority: An experimental investigation

Eric Dickson, Sanford Gordon, Gregory A. Huber

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

    Abstract

    Unelected officials with coercive powers (e.g., police, prosecutors, bureaucrats) vary markedly in the extent to which citizens view their actions as legitimate. We explore the institutional determinants of legitimate authority in the context of a public goods laboratory experiment. In the experiment, an "authority" can target one "citizen" for punishment following citizen contribution choices. Untargeted citizens can then choose to help or hinder the authority. This latter choice may be interpreted as a behavioral measure of the authority's legitimacy. We find that legitimacy is affected by how authorities are compensated, the transparency with which their decisions are observed, and an interaction between these. When transparency is high, citizens are more willing to assist authorities who receive fixed salaries than those who personally benefit from collected penalties, even when citizens' material incentives are controlled for. Lower transparency reduces support, but only for salaried enforcers.

    Original languageEnglish (US)
    Pages (from-to)109-127
    Number of pages19
    JournalAmerican Journal of Political Science
    Volume59
    Issue number1
    DOIs
    StatePublished - Jan 1 2015

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    citizen
    transparency
    penalty
    legitimacy
    laboratory experiment
    salary
    police
    incentive
    determinants
    experiment
    interaction

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • Sociology and Political Science

    Cite this

    Institutional sources of legitimate authority : An experimental investigation. / Dickson, Eric; Gordon, Sanford; Huber, Gregory A.

    In: American Journal of Political Science, Vol. 59, No. 1, 01.01.2015, p. 109-127.

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

    Dickson, Eric ; Gordon, Sanford ; Huber, Gregory A. / Institutional sources of legitimate authority : An experimental investigation. In: American Journal of Political Science. 2015 ; Vol. 59, No. 1. pp. 109-127.
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