Skip to main content

Legislative Professionalism and Incumbent Reelection: The Development of Institutional Boundaries

  • William D. Berry (a1), Michael B. Berkman (a2) and Stuart Schneiderman (a3)

It is well established that legislators from highly professionalized bodies are more likely to win reelection than members of less professionalized legislatures. We find that the effect of professionalization on incumbent electoral success is far more pervasive. As the level of professionalism of a legislature increases, the effects of external political and economic forces (such as coattails from higher level elections and national economic conditions) on a legislator's chances for reelection diminish in strength. This implies that legislative professionalization promotes institutionalization by establishing boundaries that insulate members from external shocks. We reach these conclusions by specifying and testing a district-level model of state legislative election outcomes, using as dependent variable the probability that an incumbent will win reelection. The model is estimated with probit using data for more than 42,000 state legislators from 1970 to 1989.

Hide All
Aldrich John H., and Nelson Forrest D.. 1984. Linear Probability, Logit, and Probit Models. Newbury Park: Sage.
Basehart Harry, and Comer John. 1991. “Partisan and Incumbent Effects in State Legislative Redistricting.” Legislative Studies Quarterly 16 (02): 6579.
Beck Nathaniel, King Gary, and Zeng Langche. 2000. “Improving Quantitative Studies of International Conflict: A Conjecture.” American Political Science Review 94 (03): 2136.
Berry William D., Berkman Michael B., and Schneiderman Stuart. 2000. Legislative Professionalism and Incumbent Reelection [computer file] (Study #1227). Ann Arbor, MI: Inter-University Consortium for Political and Social Research.
Bloom Howard S., and Price H. Douglas. 1975. “Comment.” American Political Science Review 69 (12): 1240–54.
Brace Paul, and Ward Daniel S.. 1999. “The Institutionalized Legislature and the Rise of the Antipolitics Era.” In American State and Local Politics: Directions for the 21st Century, ed. Weber Ronald E. and Brace Paul. New York: Chatham House. Pp. 7196.
Bushnell Eleanore, ed. 1970. Impact of Reapportionment on the Thirteen Western States. Salt Lake City: University of Utah Press.
Campagna J. David, and Grofman Bernard. 1990. “Party Control and Partisan Bias in 1980s Congressional Redistricting.” Journal of Politics 52 (11): 1242–58.
Campbell James E. 1986. “Presidential Coattails and Midterm Losses in State Legislative Elections.” American Political Science Review 80 (03): 4564.
Campbell James E. 1993. The Presidential Pulse of Congressional Elections. Lexington: University of Kentucky Press.
Carey John M., Niemi Richard G., and Powell Lynda W.. 2000. “Incumbency and the Probability of Reelection in State Legislative Elections.” Journal of Politics 62 (08): 671700.
Chubb John E. 1988. “Institutions, the Economy, and the Dynamics of State Elections.“ American Political Science Review 82 (03): 133–54.
Cooper Joseph, and Brady David W.. 1981. “Toward a Diachronie Analysis of Congress.” American Political Science Review 75 (12): 9881006.
Cox Gary W., and Morgenstern Scott. 1993. “The Increasing Advantage of Incumbency in the U.S. States.” Legislative Studies Quarterly 18 (11): 495514.
Cox Gary W., and Morgenstern Scott. 1995. “The Incumbency Advantage in the Multimember Districts: Evidence from the U.S. States.” Legislative Studies Quarterly 20 (08): 329–49.
Erikson Robert S. 1990. “Economic Conditions and the Congressional Vote: A Review of the Macrolevel Evidence.” American Journal of Political Science 34 (05): 373–99.
Fiorina Morris. 1983. “Who Is Held Responsible? Further Evidence on the Hibbing-Alford Thesis.” American Journal of Political Science 27 (02): 158–64.
Fiorina Morris. 1994. “Divided Government in the American States: A Byproduct of Legislative Professionalism.” American Political Science Review 88 (06): 304–16.
Garand James C. 1991. “Electoral Marginality in State Legislative Elections, 1968–1986.” Legislative Studies Quarterly 16 (02): 728.
Hardy Leroy, Heslop Alan, and Anderson Stuart, eds. 1981. Reapportionment Politics. Beverly Hills, CA: Sage.
Herrnson Paul S. 1998. Congressional Elections: Campaigning at Home and in Washington, 2d ed. Washington, DC: Congressional Quarterly Press.
Hibbing John R. 1988. “Legislative Institutionalization with Illustrations from the British House of Commons.” American Journal of Political Science 32 (08): 681712.
Hibbing John R. 1999. “Legislative Careers: Why and How We Study Them.” Legislative Studies Quarterly 24 (05): 149–71.
Hibbing John R., and Alford John R.. 1981. “The Electoral Impact of Economic Conditions: Who Is Held Responsible?American Journal of Political Science 25 (08): 423–39.
Holbrook Thomas M., and Tidmarch Charles M.. 1991. “Sophomore Surge in State Legislative Elections, 1968–86.” Legislative Studies Quarterly 16 (02): 4963.
Huntington Samuel. 1965. “Congressional Responses to the Twentieth Century.” In The Congress and America's Future, ed. Truman David B.. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall. Pp. 531.
Inter-University Consortium for Political and Social Research (ICPSR). 1992. State Legislative Election Returns in the United States, 1968–1989 [computer file] (Study #8907), Part I. 5th ICPSR ed. Ann Arbor, MI: Inter-University Consortium for Political and Social Research [producer and distributor].
Jacobson Gary C. 1987. “The Marginals Never Vanished: Incumbency and Competition in Elections to the U.S. House of Representatives, 1952-1982.” American Journal of Political Science 31 (02): 126–41.
Jacobson Gary C. 1990. The Electoral Origins of Divided Government: Competition in U.S. House Elections, 1946–1988. Boulder, CO: Westview.
Jacobson Gary C. 1997. The Politics of Congressional Elections, 4th ed. New York: Longman.
King Gary. 1991. “Constituency Service and the Incumbency Advantage.” British Journal of Political Science 21 (01): 119–28.
King Gary, Tomz Michael, and Wittenberg Jason. 2000. “Making the Most of Statistical Analyses: Improving Interpretation and Presentation.” American Journal of Political Science 44 (04): 341–55.
Kramer Gerald H. 1971. “Short-Term Fluctuations in U.S. Voting Behavior, 1896–1964.” American Political Science Review 65 (03): 131–43.
Kramer Gerald H. 1983. “The Ecological Fallacy Revisited: Aggregate versus Individual-Level Findings on Economics and Elections and Sociotropic Voting.” American Political Science Review 11 (03): 92111.
Krasno Jonathan, and Green Donald Philip. 1988. “Preempting Quality Challengers in House Elections.” Journal of Politics 50 (11): 920–36.
Leyden Kevin M., and Borrelli Stephen A.. 1995. “The Effect of State Economic Conditions on Gubernatorial Elections: Does Unified Government Make a Difference?Political Research Quarterly 48 (06): 275–90.
Lowry Robert C., Alt James E., and Ferree Karen E.. 1999. “Fiscal Policy Outcomes and Electoral Accountability in the American States.” American Political Science Review 92 (12): 759–74.
Moncrief Gary F. 1999. “Recruitment and Retention in U.S. Legislatures.” Legislative Studies Quarterly 24 (05): 173208.
Moncrief Gary F., and Thompson Joel, eds. 1992. Changing Patterns in State Legislative Careers. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press.
PQlsby Nelson W. 1968. “The Institutionalization of the U.S. House of Representatives.” American Political Science Review 62 (03): 144–67.
Radcliff Benjamin. 1988. “Solving a Puzzle: Aggregate Analysis and Economic Voting Revisited.” Journal of Politics 50 (05): 440–55.
Rosenthal Alan. 1996. “State Legislative Development: Observations from Three Perspectives.” Legislative Studies Quarterly 21 (05): 169–98.
Rosenthal Alan. 1998. The Decline of Representative Democracy: Process, Participation and Power in State Legislatures. Washington, DC: Congressional Quarterly Press.
Salmore Stephen A., and Salmore Barbara G.. 1985. Candidates, Parties, and Campaigns: Electoral Politics in America. Washington, DC: Congressional Quarterly Press.
Scammon Richard M., and McGillivray Alice V.. 1995. America Votes. Washington, DC: Congressional Quarterly Press.
Squire Peverill. 1992. “The Theory of Legislative Institutionalization and the California Assembly.” Journal of Politics 54 (11): 1026–54.
Squire Peverill. 1997. Another Look at Legislative Professionalization and Divided Government in the States.” Legislative Studies Quarterly 22 (08): 417–33.
Stein Robert M. 1990. “Economic Voting for Governor and U.S. Senator: The Electoral Consequences of Federalism.” Journal of Politics 52 (02): 2953.
Tomz Michael, Wittenberg Jason, and King Gary. 1998. “CLARIFY: Software for Interpreting and Presenting Statistical Results.” Version 1.2. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University, 09 16.
Tufte Edward. 1975. “Determinants of the Outcomes of Midterm Congressional Elections.” American Political Science Review 69 (09): 812–26.
Van Dunk Emily, and Weber Ronald E.. 1997. “Constituency-Level Competition in the U.S. States, 1968–1988: A Pooled Analysis.” Legislative Studies Quarterly 22 (05): 141–59.
Weber Ronald E., Tucker Harvey J., and Brace Paul. 1991. “Vanishing Marginals in State Legislative Elections.” Legislative Studies Quarterly 16 (05): 2947.
White Halbert. 1980. “A Heteroskedasticity-Consistent Covariance Matrix Estimator and a Direct Test for Heteroskedasticity.” Econometrica 48 (05): 817–38.
Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

American Political Science Review
  • ISSN: 0003-0554
  • EISSN: 1537-5943
  • URL: /core/journals/american-political-science-review
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *


Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 7 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 325 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between September 2016 - 18th December 2017. This data will be updated every 24 hours.