Diffusion in Congress: Social Dynamics of Discharge Petitions
39 Pages Posted: 21 Feb 2011 Last revised: 7 May 2012
Date Written: May 6, 2012
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: Suggested Citation