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Associate Professor, Department of Applied Social Science, the Hong Kong Polytechnic University; Clinical Associate Professor, School of Economic, Political and Policy Sciences, University of Texas at Dallas; Ashbel Smith Professor, School of Economic, Political and Policy Sciences, University of Texas at Dallas
Mass Production of Individualized Services: Machine Politics in Hong Kong
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Political machines are built to distribute spoils, buy support, and influence election outcome. Existing research argues that political machines target poor and illiterate voters because their votes are cheap to acquire with non-programmatic benefits. Using the case of Hong Kong, we critically examine the extent to which the ruling coalition utilizes non-programmatic benefits in elections where votes are generally too expensive to purchase. Using interviews with local councilors and data from the 2015 Hong Kong Election Study, we find that: (1) pro-Beijing parties tend to specialize in the provision of highly individualized services; (2) demand for these services tends to come from non-poor citizens; and (3) unable to monitor individual votes, pro-Beijing parties use services and benefits to influence the turnout of the recipients, rather than their vote choice. These findings suggest that the growing electoral strength of pro-Beijing parties in Hong Kong reflects their responsiveness to constituent demands.