Districts and Candidates in U.S. House Elections

15 Pages Posted: 13 Aug 2009 Last revised: 16 Oct 2009

See all articles by Eric McGhee

Eric McGhee

Public Policy Institute of California

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Date Written: 2009


Research on U.S. House elections has placed growing emphasis on the partisanship of the districts as an explanation for weak competition. Supporters of this account point to the growing number of districts whose underlying partisan complexion places them out of reach of one party, as well as to the increasing party loyalty of most voters and the growing correlation between district partisanship and the party of the incumbent holding the seat. While the competitiveness of House elections is an aggregate phenomenon - and thus influenced by both the marginal effects of important explanatory variables as well as their distributions - the research on this topic only considers marginal effects in the context of a multivariate model. This paper uses counterfactual analysis to factor in both marginal effects and distributions simultaneously. The results suggest that patterns of spending are by far the most important variable explaining the competitiveness of House elections. District partisanship, while more important than in the past, has had only modest effects.

Keywords: elections, U.S. congress, responsiveness, competition, polarization

Suggested Citation

McGhee, Eric, Districts and Candidates in U.S. House Elections (2009). APSA 2009 Toronto Meeting Paper, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1451286

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