Loyalty to the Leadership: Validating Congressional Party Voting Scores with Party Leadership Records
23 Pages Posted: 3 Apr 2017
Date Written: March 31, 2017
Measures of party unity are commonplace in the study of legislative voting, particularly in assessments of party influence. Although scholars have employed a range of measures in studying party loyalty and reward in the U.S. House, all are proxies for the scores that House party leaders construct for their own processes, and these scores have never been examined in empirical scholarship. Drawing on archived leadership records, I construct leader loyalty scores for House Democrats in the 1970s and 1980s based on leadership-selected key votes in each session. I show that the content of the leader lists is very sensitive to political context as the leadership responds to short-term challenges, but in the aggregate, leader loyalty scores are closely related over time to other indicators. And, as predictors of party rewards—in the form of committee posts and legislative success—the leaders’ scores generally perform similarly to the usual proxies, although the leadership's measure provides clearer evidence of reward, particularly in comparison to conventional party unity scores.
Keywords: Party voting, party loyalty, party unity, party leadership, key votes
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation