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A Spatial Analysis of Delegate Voting at the Constitutional Convention

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  23 May 2013

Jac C. Heckelman
Professor, Department of Economics, Wake Forest University, 110 Carswell Hall, Winston-Salem, NC 27109. E-mail:
Keith L. Dougherty
Associate Professor, Department of Political Science, University of Georgia, Baldwin Hall, Athens, GA 30602. E-mail:


Previous studies of the U.S. Constitutional Convention have relied on votes recorded for the state blocs or a relatively small number of delegate votes. We construct a new data set covering delegate votes on over 600 substantive roll calls, and use the data in several ways. First, we estimate a single dimensional position for the delegates which reflects their overall voting patterns. Next, we explain these positions using a variety of delegate and constituent variables. Finally, we suggest a method for identifying state and floor medians, which can be used to predict equilibrium outcomes at the Convention.

Copyright © The Economic History Association 2013 

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Funding for this research was supported by the National Science Foundation, SES-0752098. We thank Paul Carlsen, Rocky Cole, Rachel Columb, George Cone, Christopher Cotter, Brandon Kliewer, Yao Kang, Monica Petrescu, and Rebecca Sherman for research assistance. We also appreciate comments from participants attending seminars presented at West Virginia University, University of Vermont, and University of Delaware, the 2011 Southern Economics Association conference, and the 2012 World Public Choice conference. Detailed comments were also provided by Ryan Bakker, Farley Grubb, Price Fishback, and an anonymous referee. Allin Cottrell helped develop a programming script. All remaining errors are our own.



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