Will I Stay or Will I Go? Conscientiousness and Lame Duck Absenteeism in the United States Congress
69 Pages Posted: 7 Mar 2014 Last revised: 19 May 2015
Date Written: May 18, 2015
Political scientists have long considered ideology, partisanship, and constituency in determining how members of the United States Congress make decisions. Meanwhile, psychologists have held that personality traits play central roles in decision-making. Here, we bridge these literatures by offering a framework for modeling how personality influences legislative behavior. Drawing from experimental economics and neuropsychology, we identify core cognitive constraints for the “Big Five” personality model, parameterizing them in ways useful for crafting formal models of legislative behavior. Using machine-learning models to connect linguistic cues with known personality correlates, we use floor speeches to estimate legislators’ personality traits. Matching methods are used to study how personality traits affect behavior in Congress, with a focus on how Conscientiousness affects absenteeism in the absence of an electoral connection. Our results are consistent with a parameterization of Conscientiousness as time preferences rather than a tendency to keep commitments out of a sense of duty.
Keywords: personality, Congress, machine learning, legislative politics, polarization
JEL Classification: D72, C1, D7
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation