Revisiting the Link Between Electoral Competition and Policy Extremism in the U.S. Congress

American Politics Research, Vol. 32, No. 5, pp. 495-520, 2004

27 Pages Posted: 21 Apr 2011

Date Written: August 8, 2004

Abstract

Prominent theories of American political parties imply that higher levels of competition cause lawmakers to be more responsive to the center of public opinion, but there is little empirical evidence to support this assertion. Furthermore, many studies have found that competition causes lawmakers to be less responsive to public opinion as a whole and more responsive to their own partisans. Parties and candidates pursue a “mobilization” rather than “moderation” strategy supposedly because competitive constituencies are inherently heterogeneous, which then creates a context for more ideological campaigns and a more partisan policymaking environment. An analysis of U.S. Senate roll call votes between 1989 and 2000 reveals that legislators from more marginal states are less responsive to the ideological center than legislators from safe states. Furthermore, there is no evidence of a relationship between constituency diversity and electoral competition or that greater partisanship is the result of greater diversity.

Keywords: Congress, Electoral Competition, Marginality, Moderation, Mobilization, Constituency Diversity, Roll Call Votes

Suggested Citation

Gulati, Girish, Revisiting the Link Between Electoral Competition and Policy Extremism in the U.S. Congress (August 8, 2004). American Politics Research, Vol. 32, No. 5, pp. 495-520, 2004, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1815745

Girish Gulati (Contact Author)

Bentley University ( email )

175 Forest Street
Waltham, MA 02145
United States

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