Dynamic Partisanship: Party Loyalty and Agenda Setting in the U.S. House

51 Pages Posted: 5 Sep 2011 Last revised: 24 Feb 2012

See all articles by René Lindstädt

René Lindstädt

Ryan J. Vander Wielen

Temple University - Department of Political Science

Date Written: February 20, 2012


Legislators and legislative parties must strike a delicate balance between pursuing collective and member-level goals. While there are both legislative and reputational returns to coordinated behavior, party loyalty is known to have a detrimental effect on members' electoral success, which at least partially undermines parties' goal of seat maximization. We argue that members and parties navigate these competing forces by pursuing partisan legislation when the threat of electoral repercussions is relatively low. This condition is met when members are most insulated from electoral demands - when elections are distant. We empirically test our theory by examining House members' likelihood of casting a party vote over the course of the election cycle. In particular, we seek to assess whether members strategically alter their levels of party loyalty with respect to election proximity. We also explore whether majority parties strategically structure the agenda according to variation in members' electoral constraints. This approach builds upon the existing literature by providing for the possibility that individual- and collective-level partisanship follows a highly dynamic process, which we term dynamic partisanship. We find that with increasing proximity to election, members are less likely to cast party votes and parties are less inclined to schedule votes that divide the parties. In addition, we show that dynamic partisanship has important policy implications. In particular, bills introduced late in the election cycle are less likely to encounter partisan manipulation via amendments than those introduced when elections are distant.

Keywords: Legislative Voting, U.S. Congress, Congressional Elections, Strategic Legislative Behavior, Political Institutions

JEL Classification: D7, D72

Suggested Citation

Lindstaedt, Rene and Vander Wielen, Ryan J., Dynamic Partisanship: Party Loyalty and Agenda Setting in the U.S. House (February 20, 2012). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1922816 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.1922816

Ryan J. Vander Wielen (Contact Author)

Temple University - Department of Political Science ( email )

Philadelphia, PA 19122
United States

No contact information is available for Rene Lindstaedt

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