Presidential Pork Barrel Politics with Polarized Voters
48 Pages Posted: 31 Dec 2014
Date Written: August 26, 2014
Despite strong theoretical claims that politicians should target swing voters with distributive benefits, empirical evidence is mixed in the United States. Here I address this puzzle by focusing on two factors overlooked in previous work. First, I show that the bimodal distribution of partisanship among the U.S. public means that swing voters are efficiently targeted by allocating pork to areas where the opposition is strong. Second, I hypothesize that presidents limit swing-voter targeting to times when they are actually up for reelection; thus, the opposition county advantages appear only in the first presidential years. An analysis of the geographic distribution of federal project grants awarded between 1984 and 2009 supports my theory. Presidents target swing voters within competitive states, but they do so only in the year when they seek reelection and they channel benefits to counties where the out-party is strong.
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