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Candidates and Policy in United States Senate Elections

  • Gerald C. Wright (a1) and Michael B. Berkman (a1)

Abstract

This analysis demonstrates that policy issues play an important role in the selection of members of Congress. We differ with the conclusion of much of the existing research on congressional elections, which indicates that policy considerations are of minor importance. We have conducted an analysis of the 1982 U.S. Senate elections, drawing on data from the CBS News/New York Times 1982 congressional poll and from 23 statewide exit polls. We demonstrate that (1) candidates behave as though they believe issues are important to voters; (2) candidates' policy positions systematically influence voters' decisions; and (3) candidates' issue positions and voters' evaluations of the president and the economy interact to provide clear patterns of policy effects on Senate election outcomes. Policy effects are substantial and systematic in Senate elections, and cannot be omitted if we are to appreciate the importance of congressional elections in the national policy-making process.

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