Mapping the Ideological Marketplace

American Journal of Political Science, Forthcoming

64 Pages Posted: 16 Oct 2012 Last revised: 26 Jun 2013

Date Written: June 25, 2013


I develop a method to measure the ideology of candidates and contributors using campaign finance data. Combined with a data set of over 100 million contribution records from state and federal elections, the method estimates ideal points for an expansive range of political actors. The common pool of contributors who give across institutions and levels of politics makes it possible to recover a unified set of ideological measures for members of Congress, the President and executive branch, state legislators, governors and other state officials, as well as the interest groups and individuals that make political donations. Since candidates fundraise regardless of incumbency status, the method estimates ideal points for both incumbents and non-incumbents. After establishing measure validity and addressing issues concerning strategic behavior, I present results for a variety of political actors and discuss several promising avenues of research made possible by the new measures.

Keywords: ideal point estimation, ideology, campaign finance, money in politics

Suggested Citation

Bonica, Adam, Mapping the Ideological Marketplace (June 25, 2013). American Journal of Political Science, Forthcoming, Available at SSRN: or

Adam Bonica (Contact Author)

Stanford University ( email )

Stanford, CA 94305
United States

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