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Roll Calls, Party Labels, and Elections

  • James M. Snyder (a1) and Michael M. Ting (a2)

We develop a model of legislative policymaking in which individual legislators are concerned with both policy and reelection. Legislators' preferences are private information, and they have two means of communicating their preferences to voters. First, they each have a “party label” that credibly identifies an interval within which their ideal points must lie. Second, their roll call votes may convey additional information about their preferences. Each legislator must therefore tailor his or her votes to his or her district in order to forestall a reelection challenge from the opposing party. In equilibrium, nonsincere voting records will occur mostly in moderate districts, where extreme incumbents are vulnerable to challenges from relatively centrist candidates. In those districts, the most extreme legislators may even choose to vote sincerely and retire rather than compile a moderate voting record. Thus, both roll call scores and candidate types will be responsive to district type. An empirical test of shifts in roll call scores of retiring House members in moderate districts confirms these findings.

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Political Analysis
  • ISSN: 1047-1987
  • EISSN: 1476-4989
  • URL: /core/journals/political-analysis
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