- This review is a response for what I am looking for in Essay 3, Fall 2012.
- For outsiders, this post is teaching mechanism to supplement lectures.
- Expected Niche Market: congress, campaign / election, public opinion researchers.
Student Essay 3: Do Legislators Need to Worry about Voting Extreme?
Brandice Canes-Wrone, David W. Brady and John F. Cogan.
Out of Step, out of Office: Electoral Accountability and House Members’ Voting. The American Political Science Review, Vol. 96, No. 1 (Mar., 2002), pp. 127-140.
The surety model (Grynaviski 2010) purports that the majority of members of the House or Senate (MCs) will elect a moderate Speaker / Leader, and the Speaker / Leader controls the possibility of legislation in order to keep extreme MCs from bringing legislation to the floor—in order to protect the party brand. In doing so, voters trust the party brand—the actions by MCs are congruent to the perception of voter’s spatial alignment with the party; instead of the individual candidate, and voters may indeed ignore extreme campaign rhetoric because they trust the party brand. However, when more extreme issues become legislation (i.e. right to work, abortion, gay marriage); and the vote according to the Downsian spectrum is extreme—are there electoral consequences?
The point of “Out of Step, Out of Office” is to affirm or deny the assumption that the more radical a member of Congress (MCs) is spatially located from the mean of the party to the extreme (and not towards the median); the more likely the MC will diminish his or her chance of reelection. The wide study controls for district ideology, challenger quality, campaign spending, generally, and in some cases, accounts for data from 1956-1996. To do so, the authors create the “Roll-Call Ideological Extremity Hypothesis” (129). This model measures: incumbent’s vote share, roll-call ideological extremity, presidential vote, challenger quality, challenger spending –incumbent spending, freshman, and personal income. Does a newly elected representative need to worry about roll-call votes on extreme legislation?
Downs’ median-voter theorem assumption that voters can order the candidates on an ideological spectrum, and that voters know their attitude about their location on said spectrum, base their vote decision on the candidate more closely located to their position on the median voter continuum (129). Hence, roll call votes, which are available in the news and campaigns, may be used by the challenger to show that an extreme Republican or Democrat is distant from the precinct’s political spectrum (Bailey 2001). Therefore, the more extreme a candidate proves to be; the more likely they will lose a percentage of election votes by the people. Further, Erikson (1971) provides the “diffusion model” whereas elites pay attention to roll call votes, create public discussion about extreme positions, and voters take cues from elites (130). Again, there is reason to believe that extreme MCs will gain more disapproval than party-median MCs (in line with elites).
Some quotes that might be used as evidence from this article for your paper:
“Thus comparing two Republican members who have identical district ideologies, who are running against the same quality of challenger, who are not freshmen, and who face the same distribution of spending between themselves and their challengers, the member with the more conservative voting record obtains a lower vote share” (133).
Table 2: House Incumbents’ Legislative Voting and Electoral Vote Share: Pooled Analysis, 1956-1996; Roll-Call Ideological Extremity Hypothesis provides evidence. The authors find that “holding constant a variety of factors that are commonly presumed to determine elections, the effect of roll-call ideology is positive and statistically significant in each sample of data… the coefficients for each sample indicate that such a shift would decrease a member’s vote share by approximately 2 percentage points…” ( p < 0.05, two-tailed) (133-134).
“On the one hand, a majority of incumbents win by the so-called safe margin of at least 60% of the two-party vote, and the findings indicate that a shift from perfectly moderate to perfectly extreme voting alters a member’s vote share by only 4 percentage points. On the other hand, the findings indicate that safety itself is likely to be dependent upon members’ prior legislative records, and this relationship would suggest that even safe members might need to fear the electoral ramifications of legislative voting” (134).
“Most importantly for our purposes, the results indicate that a member is significantly more likely to be designated safe the more moderate is his legislative voting holding for other factors equal” (135).
“The effects of campaign spending and district ideology are consistently in the expected direction and statistically significant… the effect of the economy is significant in each regime of the 1956-1996 test, the effect of the midterm loss is significant in the marginal regime of each test, and the effect of presidential popularity is significant…” (137).
And finally of salience (recall the surety model):
“…holding district ideology constant, in every election between 1956 and 1996 an incumbent’s vote share decreased the more he voted with the extreme of his party… the average impact of this effect is comparable to that of commonly recognized electoral determinants such as challenger quality… by directly examining the probability of reelection, we demonstrate that the probability decreases significantly as an incumbent’s voting support for his party increases, with this effect holding not only for marginal but also safe incumbents…safety itself derives from a member’s roll-call positions” (138, italics added).
Implications / possible discussion: this paper was published in 2002, but we have seen a decade of greater and greater partisanship (consider the voters approval rating for Congress). Tea Partiers have been elected in safe districts and often represent extreme positions compared to the median voter in any given precinct.