Attributing responsibility in devolved contexts. Experimental evidence from the UK Articles uri icon

publication date

  • January 2019

start page

  • 39

end page

  • 48

volume

  • 59

International Standard Serial Number (ISSN)

  • 0261-3794

Electronic International Standard Serial Number (EISSN)

  • 1873-6890

abstract

  • In devolved contexts, people may get it wrong in their responsibility assignments because they are unsure about who does what or because they filter their attributions of credit and blame through their political lenses. This paper theorises about these two mechanisms and tests the role of cognitive bias in moderating responsibility judgements in multilevel systems. Using a survey experiment on responsibility attribution for the NHS outcomes in Scotland and Wales, results show that partisanship is the strongest bias of responsibility assignments between regional and central authorities. Yet national identity also operates as cognitive bias, a role that so far has been theoretically and empirically overlooked in the literature. The empirical findings point to the role of partisanship and identity as cognitive guides to make responsibility judgements in complex institutional setting, such as the one that emerges from increasing devolution in the United Kingdom.