One of the more lasting imprints that New Public Management (NPM) has made in the public sector is an increase in the popularity of performance measurement. In Sweden, performance measurement has gained popularity in the public sector, not least at the local government level with the use of relative performance evaluation (RPE). Because utilization of RPE is a decentralized and optional mode of governance, a somewhat heterogeneous practice has evolved. The aim of this paper is to examine the causes of this differentiated practice. We jointly examine economic, political and institutional/cultural explanations in order to account for the utilization of RPE. The empirical material consists of archival data and a questionnaire sent to all Swedish municipalities in late 2005. We show that RPE adoption and use partly has different antecedents and that the institutional/cultural perspective appears to have greater explanatory power than economic and political, not least as a consequence of the potential to explain decoupling and the importance of change facilitating capabilities. The investigation contributes specifically to the literature on the utilization of RPE in local governments and more generally to the literature on why and to what extent management accounting practices are utilized.