Checks and Choices: The House Bank Scandal's Impact on Voters in 1992

Posted: 8 Jul 2008  

Michael A. Dimock

University of California, San Diego (UCSD)

Gary C. Jacobson

University of California, San Diego (UCSD) - Department of Political Science

Date Written: November 1995

Abstract

Analysis of the 1992 American National Election Study (ANES) data indicates that the House bank scandal reduced the vote for House incumbents by approximately five percentage points. The scandal mainly affected the small subset of voters who were most offended by bank overdrafts and who did not assume that their representative had a clean record. Fortunately for members who had written bad checks, voters who knew about the transgression were least disposed to be outraged by it, while the voters most disposed to outrage were also most inclined to believe the guilty were innocent. The explanation for these curious patterns is that voters who faced the option of condemning an incumbent they otherwise appreciated or dismissing the offense as inconsequential often chose the latter course. The damage was also moderated by partisanship; voters of the incumbent's party showed a strong tendency to err in the incumbent's favor in assessing involvement in the scandal. The classical theory of cognitive dissonance readily explains both phenomena.

Suggested Citation

Dimock, Michael A. and Jacobson, Gary C., Checks and Choices: The House Bank Scandal's Impact on Voters in 1992 (November 1995). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1156917

Michael A. Dimock

University of California, San Diego (UCSD)

9500 Gilman Drive
Mail Code 0502
La Jolla, CA 92093-0112
United States

Gary C. Jacobson (Contact Author)

University of California, San Diego (UCSD) - Department of Political Science ( email )

9500 Gilman Drive
Code 0521
La Jolla, CA 92093-0521
United States
858-534-4295 (Phone)

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