Policy and the Structure of Roll Call Voting in the U.S. House

44 Pages Posted: 30 Oct 2018

Date Written: October 8, 2018

Abstract

Competition in the U.S. Congress has been increasingly characterized by competition along a single, left-right dimension. However, we challenge this characterization by showing the content of legislation has far more predictive power, particularly for members of the minority party, than the characteristics of members’ constituencies and their own characteristics, most notably their ideological position derived from scaling roll call votes. Using a machine learning approach, we identify a topics model for final passage votes in the 111th through the 113th House of Representatives and conduct out-of-sample tests to evaluate the predictive power of bill topics relative to other factors. We find that bill topics and congressional committees are important for predicting roll call votes but the other variables, including member ideology, lack predictive power. These findings raise serious doubts about the claim that congressional politics can be boiled down to competition along a single left-right continuum and shed new light on the debate about levels of polarization in Congress.

Keywords: Congress, Prediction

Suggested Citation

de Marchi, Scott and Dorsey, Spencer and Ensley, Michael J., Policy and the Structure of Roll Call Voting in the U.S. House (October 8, 2018). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3262316 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3262316

Scott De Marchi

Duke University ( email )

100 Fuqua Drive
Durham, NC 27708-0204
United States

Spencer Dorsey (Contact Author)

Duke University ( email )

100 Fuqua Drive
Durham, NC 27708-0204
United States

Michael J. Ensley

Kent State University ( email )

Kent, OH 44242
United States

Register to save articles to
your library

Register

Paper statistics

Downloads
18
Abstract Views
169
PlumX Metrics