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Drawing Your Senator from a Jar:Term Length and Legislative Behavior*


This paper studies the effects of term duration on legislative behavior using field experiments that occur in the Arkansas, Illinois, and Texas Senates in the United States. After mandatory changes in senate district boundaries, state senators are randomly assigned to serve either two-year or four-year terms, providing a rare opportunity to study legislative behavior experimentally. Despite important differences across states, when considered together, the results show that senators serving two years abstain more often, introduce fewer bills, and do not seem to be more responsive to their constituents than senators serving four years. In addition, senators serving shorter terms raise and spend significantly more money, although in those states where funds can be raised continuously during the legislative term, the differences arise only when the election is imminent.

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Rocío Titiunik is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Political Science, University of Michigan, 5700 Haven Hall, 505 South State Street, Ann Arbor, MI 48109-1045 (, The author thanks the Associate Editor Kenneth Benoit and two anonymous reviewers for their helpful comments. The author also thanks Henry Brady, Matías Cattaneo, Andrew Feher, Don Green, Rick Hall, John Jackson, Luke Keele, Walter Mebane, Eric Schickler, Jas Sekhon, Rob Van Houweling, Radoslaw Zubek, and seminar participants at U.C. Berkeley, the University of Michigan, and the Workshop on Heterotemporal Parliamentarism at Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München for valuable comments and discussions, Brad Kent for excellent research assistance, Jerry Wright and the Representation in America’s Legislatures project for providing data, and Steve Cook at the Arkansas Senate for his generous assistance. The author is am grateful for the generous support of the Myke Synar Research Fellowship at the Institute of Governmental Studies, U.C. Berkeley, and the Dissertation Research Award, at the Institute for Business and Economic Research, U.C. Berkeley. All errors are the author’s responsibility. To view supplementary material for this article, please visit

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Political Science Research and Methods
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