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Out of Step, Out of Office: Electoral Accountability and House Members' Voting

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  03 March 2004

BRANDICE CANES-WRONE
Affiliation:
Assistant Professor of Political Science, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and Visiting Assistant Professor of Political Science, California Institute of Technology, Division of Humanities and Social Sciences 228-77, Pasadena, CA 91125 (bcw@hss.caltech.edu).
DAVID W. BRADY
Affiliation:
Professor of Political Science, Standford University and Fellow, The Hoover Institution, 241 Littlefield, Graduate School of Business, Stanford University, Stanford, CA 94305-5015 (dbrady@leland.stanford.edu).
JOHN F. COGAN
Affiliation:
Senior Fellow, The Hoover Institution and Professor of Public Policy, Standford University, HHMB Room 347, Stanford, CA 94305-6010 (cogan@hoover.stanford.edu).

Abstract

Does a typical House member need to worry about the electoral ramifications of his roll-call decisions? We investigate the relationship between incumbents' electoral performance and roll-call support for their party—controlling for district ideology, challenger quality, and campaign spending, among other factors—through a series of tests of the 1956–1996 elections. The tests produce three key findings indicating that members are indeed accountable for their legislative voting. First, in each election, an incumbent receives a lower vote share the more he supports his party. Second, this effect is comparable in size to that of other widely recognized electoral determinants. Third, a member's probability of retaining office decreases as he offers increased support for his party, and this relationship holds for not only marginal, but also safe members.

Type
Research Article
Copyright
© 2002 by the American Political Science Association

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