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4 - Developments in Congressional Responsiveness to Donor Opinion

from Part I - Anxieties of Power, Influence, and Representation

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  25 May 2019

Frances E. Lee
University of Maryland, College Park
Nolan McCarty
Princeton University, New Jersey
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Opinion polling suggests heightened public concern about the role of money in politics.  Yet within the academic literature, there is little evidence that campaign contributions influence congressional roll call voting.  This chapter makes use of the 1988–1992 Senate Study of the American National Election Studies and recent waves of the Cooperative Congressional Election Study to investigate the possibility of change over time in the relationship between individual donors’ preferences and senators’ votes on a set of recurring issues. The analyses reveal a significant association between donor opinion and roll call voting over the past decade but not in earlier years. Additionally, the findings suggest that the impact of donor opinion is greater as the electoral environment becomes more favorable to a senator’s reelection. The 1988–1992 electoral environments were typically competitive, however, contributing to the negligible overall effect of donor opinion in these years. This evidence of a conditional impact suggests that policy reforms could affect the relationship between contributions and policymaking.

Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2019

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