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How Words and Money Cultivate a Personal Vote: The Effect of Legislator Credit Claiming on Constituent Credit Allocation

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  24 October 2012

Stanford University
Stanford University
Stanford University
Justin Grimmer is Assistant Professor, Department of Political Science, Stanford University, Encina Hall West, 616 Serra Street, Stanford, CA, 94305 (
Solomon Messing is a Ph.D. candidate, Department of Communication, Stanford University, 450 Serra Mall, Building 120, Room 110, Stanford, CA, 94305 (
Sean J. Westwood is a Ph.D. candidate, Department of Communication, Stanford University, 450 Serra Mall, Building 120, Room 110, Stanford, CA, 94305 (


Particularistic spending, a large literature argues, builds support for incumbents. This literature equates money spent in the district with the credit constituents allocate. Yet, constituents lack the necessary information and motivation to allocate credit in this way. We use extensive observational and experimental evidence to show how legislators’ credit claiming messages—and not just money spent in the district—affect how constituents allocate credit. Legislators use credit claiming messages to influence the expenditures they receive credit for and to affect how closely they are associated with spending in the district. Constituents are responsive to credit claiming messages—they build more support than other nonpartisan messages. But contrary to expectations from other studies, constituents are more responsive to the total number of messages sent rather than the amount claimed. Our results have broad implications for political representation, the personal vote, and the study of U.S. Congressional elections.

Research Article
Copyright © American Political Science Association 2012

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