Partisan Gerrymandering, Congressional Polarization, and Distributive Politics

59 Pages Posted: 7 Jun 2019 Last revised: 30 Jun 2021

See all articles by Sahil Raina

Sahil Raina

Alberta School of Business, University of Alberta

Sheng-Jun Xu

University of Alberta - School of Business

Date Written: June 7, 2021

Abstract

Prior attempts to link gerrymandering to incumbency advantage and political polarization overlook an important strategic nuance: a partisan gerrymanderer has an interest in "attacking" vulnerable incumbents of the opposing party while "protecting" vulnerable incumbents from its own party. Tracking incumbents in the U.S. House of Representatives before and after redistricting, we show that a narrow loss for the gerrymandering party's candidate in the pre-redistricting election predicts greater incumbent vulnerability in the post-redistricting election relative to a narrow win for the gerrymandering party's candidate. We develop a simple model to show that elected politicians who lose partisan support will compensate by changing their optimal mix of partisan positioning and individual effort. We test the model's predictions using the discontinuity in incumbency advantage predicted by partisan gerrymandering, and find that incumbents weakened by gerrymandering are indeed less partisan in their congressional voting behavior and bring more discretionary federal spending to their districts.

Keywords: political economy, gerrymandering, redistricting, legislatures, elections, polarization, distributive politics

JEL Classification: D72, H73, P16

Suggested Citation

Raina, Sahil and Xu, Sheng-Jun, Partisan Gerrymandering, Congressional Polarization, and Distributive Politics (June 7, 2021). Proceedings of Paris December 2019 Finance Meeting EUROFIDAI - ESSEC, University of Alberta School of Business Research Paper No. 2019-505, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3396699 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3396699

Sahil Raina

Alberta School of Business, University of Alberta ( email )

2-32B Business Building
Edmonton, Alberta T6G 2R6
Canada

HOME PAGE: http://sites.ualberta.ca/~sraina/

Sheng-Jun Xu (Contact Author)

University of Alberta - School of Business ( email )

2-32D Business Building
Edmonton, Alberta T6G 2R6
Canada

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