Diffusion in Congress: Social Dynamics of Discharge Petitions

39 Pages Posted: 21 Feb 2011 Last revised: 7 May 2012

See all articles by René Lindstädt

René Lindstädt

Ryan J. Vander Wielen

Temple University - Department of Political Science

Matthew Green

Catholic University of America (CUA)

Date Written: May 6, 2012

Abstract

While there is a vast literature highlighting the social dynamics that underlie political behavior, we know very little about the processes by which political behavior and practices disseminate among political actors. Drawing upon recent innovations, we study the diffusion of behavior within the U.S. House of Representatives. Specifically, we examine the role of diffusion in the context of discharge petitions, which are procedural mechanisms used to force a measure out of committee for floor consideration. Based on data from 1995 to 2008, we find that discharge petitions are subject to social diffusion processes. In fact, discharge petitions frequently follow a process of social learning according to which members rationally evaluate information conveyed by the decisions of other members. These findings have implications for our understanding of congressional processes in particular and questions of political accountability in general.

Keywords: Congress, House of Representatives, Diffusion, Social Learning, Discharge Petition, Political Institutions, Political Economy

JEL Classification: D72, D83

Suggested Citation

Lindstaedt, Rene and Vander Wielen, Ryan J. and Green, Matthew, Diffusion in Congress: Social Dynamics of Discharge Petitions (May 6, 2012). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1763942 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.1763942

Ryan J. Vander Wielen

Temple University - Department of Political Science ( email )

Philadelphia, PA 19122
United States

Matthew Green

Catholic University of America (CUA) ( email )

116 McMahon Hall
Washington, DC 20064
United States

No contact information is available for Rene Lindstaedt

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