Ideological Adaptation? The Survival Instinct of Threatened Legislators
16 Pages Posted: 11 Dec 2007
Do legislators remain at one point on the ideological spectrum for their entire careers, or do they update their ideological positions in response to the demands of constituents? Although theories of the electoral connection predict that legislators should adapt to voter demands, most empirical studies instead show that they maintain consistent positions in the face of changing political conditions. This article takes advantage of the natural experiment provided by California's 2003 recall election - held at the midpoint of the state's legislative session - to investigate the impact of a strong electoral signal that is isolated from other political changes. We show that after the results of the recall signaled a surge in support for the Republican Party, Democratic legislators, particularly those in the most competitive districts, moderated their voting behavior in an apparent case of ideological adaptation.
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation