Party Extremists are more likely to Lose an Election

  • 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.

Additional information:  

For Congressional Candidates, Party Trumps Constituency

Partisanship in Everything: Public Opinion about Immigration

Morning Jay: American Political Partisanship

A General Baseline for Public Opinion in States regarding 2012 Election


47 thoughts on “Party Extremists are more likely to Lose an Election

  1. Under Professor’s Grynaviski theory, do you think Rep. Boehner banner is a poor speaker? Interesting question, I guess!

    And please ask Professor Grynaviski two questions
    1: Why is the ebook edition of his book so expensive!
    2: He has bounced around a lot in his career. From Chicago, to CONN, to Wayne. Whats that about? Always interested in academics moving around.

  2. by affliction, I suppose you mean affiliation?
    so I guess you read blogs because of how pretty they are?
    I think Dr. G, through professional collaboration projects at Wayne, has given all his students reasons for moving around. First, he was given tenure at Wayne. My first job might not be a tenure job, in fact statistically it won’t be… Tenure, prima facie, is an accomplishment–I also suppose you are distinguished, by your constant tone of rational confidence: p < 0.01. Second, finding a job where you are a perfect fit comes around not very often. I took Dr. G's rational choice-institutions-edgeworth box course–indeed many of my blog posts from 1-10-12 to 5-10-12 are a reflection of scholastic G stuff.
    Do you have a blog I can go to and critique?
    I like the picture…

  3. The background is better. The header could still use some work. When most people first look at a website, I am sure the visual matters. I think this is especially the case when people who may be looking to hire you someday come across the blog! Does it give off a professional vibe or a unprofessional vibe! I know we have discussed this before and you tried to separate you the scholar from you the blogger (or something along those times) and I told you then and will tell you again that it cannot be done.

    No blog currently, but perhaps someday!

  4. The University (U) is made up of many and various individuals–all experts in one specialization, and all doing their own thing.

    A Blog is a personal / social action; mostly, because U does not pay for the blog services (may not even want it on C.V. application), U does not endorse said blog, U is unaffiliated with blog…even after hiring someone. Second, professors recommend blogs and create their own blogs–many of which go completely unnoticed by U and all other Us. Blogs are a form of social capital, and so they become like dinner parties, or even like birthday parties. Couple of laughs, and maybe you got something good out of the deal.

    U will hire someone based on their contribution to the field–and a blog is one mechanism for “openly” communicating with other scientists–which then makes said candidate more useful to potential employers–because of the nature of instructive collaboration… which is why I blog. If it’s useful, no one will care about that mug of mine amidst Jamaican waters. They will just want that useful information.

    And if it’s not useful–then U, or you, or anyone else, will not make it salient.

  5. For example, hat tip to The Monkey Cage. They are useful to political scientists and they provide bridges to the Press. They are, in a word, useful. Just look at how many of my tweets to my students (how I use twitter) are links to The Monkey Cage. They deserve traffic.

    But let’s take a look at the structure of my blog, since it’s not all looks, right? Under my Teaching tab, I provide for “lectures” which will rise to at least 20 by 2015 (if I am teaching). This would be useful to political science professors precisely, and the outline of the lecture would be useful to all professors in academia. Under research, I am able to provide the community my professional development–particularly useful scientists studying the same topic (i.e. don’t reinvent the wheel). About 90% of the posts constitute a rearticulating (not musing) of academic literature with build in hypothesis–adding research questions publicly. Perhaps you are researching a new topic; political pipeline is on track to becoming a modern Baconian encyclopedia by 2020.

    So far we can deduce, this blog is a structure of my professional contribution to society. This is why you assume that it cannot be separated from the professional community. But the game doesn’t proliferate that way… individuals must be able to make autonomous choices with respect to increasing efficacy in worthwhile activity–which is why I blog. The professionalism of blogging assumes independence of bloggers–unless paid for by U (which most are not–I am not).

  6. You are writing under your name about political science, if you do not think faculty in departments that might someday try and hire you won’t bother to take a look (and judge you based on this blog and its level of professionalism) you are doing your self a disservice.

    The blogs you mention monkey cage and votamatic, look at how professional they look!

    Some of your teaching stuff is not bad, but if people come here and see a poorly designed site that does not look professional, they might not even bother!

    Plus you are coming from WSU, which is not ranked highly in the profession (unfairly or not!) So you start at a disadvantage. What makes someone care what a WSU grad student has to say? A lot of extra work! Pull out all the bells and whistles. Make this place look super!

  7. I think this is the best you’ve had so far. The cream is a better background than the white and much better than the water/rock photos you had before. The header is better than the Detroit and boat photo. Eprops!

  8. As for the surety model, for the present Speaker, figure 5.1 is helpful (Grynaviski, Partisan Bonds) (it’s free for Wayne students online b/c he is employed at Wayne–not sure what you have against research U’s employees; just sayin’): The % of people who could not recall the Incumbent’s name was 66%; in 2000 it was 74%. The % would could not place incumbent on feeling thermometer is about 20%. Could not place President on feeling thermometer, about 1% (136).

    I opened the post with the surety model, heavy on Downs’ rational choice, because Grynaviski provides much of the theoretical and empirical legwork to consider “partisan bonds” in light of the article’s evidence of voting by party members to move the party median (in a relationship with voter spectrum attitudes) to the right (by Republicans) and to the left (by Democrats).

    I, conversely, am interested in political languages and how they admonish, hold constant, or advocate political behavior (e.g., party behavior). We certainly do see a struggle for power and collaborative agency in MCs’ behavior. Did you see the Distinguished Senator recently “Filibustering His Own Debt Limit Bill”? What political language is that?

  9. The label “extreme” is often bantered about by TV and radio news commentators, often referring to any conservative candidate as “extreme.” I find this annoying and disengenuous. What is so extreme about right to work states, believing that tax payers should not have to fund abortions here and worldwide, and believing that marriage is between one man and one woman? Although I do not dispute the premise that extremists are more likely to lose an election, I question the “fast and loose” labeling of any conservative thought or candidate as automatically extremist, which seemed prevelant in the last elections by much of the news media and candidate’s campaigns.

    • Extremeness is defined relative to other members of their party. So like using NOMINATE scores to determine who is “extreme”.

    • So here is the distribution of Republican members of the House in the 111th Congress, you might say anyone beyond the 1 is an extreme candidate. Then you’d see if members who have a score beyond 1 lose election at a greater rate (or suffer an increased probability of losing) than those who score less than 1. (1 is just an arbitrary point to draw an easy example)

      • Right. And then do the same for the Democrats. Behaviorists would find this useful in measuring the congruence of the “real extremists” according to Derik’s pundit pontification. Say, they could see if the “extremists” are not really extremists–naturally creating a type of propaganda–i.e. not reporting the observable news in reality. What effect does this have on public opinion? How salient is the echo chamber? Rational choice scholars could further explore Nash equilibrium. These would help clarify the surety model in practice…

  10. I have nothing against professor’s at research universities! Not sure where you drew that inference from, but it is not true. 1) If it was in regards to my question about Prof. G’s movement well I was just curious. It just seems strange to move from Chicago to CONN and then to Wayne. 2) If it was my reference to Wayne not being well regarded. Well that is true. The political science program is ranked poorly. In a field (well even beyond our field, the whole academic scene) that is dominated by elites (for the worse, surely) it just means that you have to try so much harder to get noticed/get people to pay attention to you. If they come see a trashy looking blog authored by a Wayne grad student, its easy to say whats the point! If you come across a very slick looking blog authored by a Wayne grad student they might give it a shot and get hooked! That is all. Nothing against anyone from any level of political science (besides the elites, of course.)

    Any update on your midwest paper? Been waiting to see it for a while!

    • Will you be at MPSA? I’ll have a hard-copy to give you. Just submitted two papers to APSA–fingers crossed.
      Just to back track, as you’re a stats guru, do bloggers have a bump in the application process? Or is it really papers that I’ll need to publish in a top-tier journal? For me to get into a research U, I suppose blogs (unless they win some legitimate prize) don’t matter–since the top five candidates at a research U interview have all published (or forthcoming)…just my hunch.

  11. Wayne State “ranks higher” than Johns Hopkins, Tennessee, Howard , Brandeis, Texas Tech, and Georgia.

    Wayne State is similar to Georgetown, Syracuse, and U. of California at Santa Barbara. I suspect that you look at rankings where Wayne is not ranked—but that would give you a false impression. Wayne keeps good company, and my peers do some excellent work.


    The former results are sorted for: “S-Rank: Programs are ranked highly if they are strong in the criteria that scholars say are most important.”

    So when you say Wayne isn’t that good, you are saying that Georgetown isn’t that good. I must disagree, Many Sighs. Thanks for the opportunity to clear that up.

  12. Don’t you think Dr. Grynaviski would have accepted a tenure position at Georgetown, considering 2/2 research schedule–to work with “Georgetown type” students via one graduate seminar a semester and one undergraduate seminar a semester? Keeping company with professors coming from Harvard, Yale, U of California-Berkeley–and about five others from U of M Ann Arbor, etc.?

  13. 1: Probably will not be at midwest, but you could always post the paper to this blog. Could roundup interests and cause greater turnout to your midwest presentation.
    2: Blogs will help you get a job insofar as they help get your name out there and direct people do your work. Published papers matter more than anything, of course! But if you have a high quality blog that either directs people to your papers or hosts your papers you are doing yourself a solid because its just another means of getting your name out there and getting people to read your work.
    3: I would say Georgetown is not a good program. Its ranked 69th (midway point between 62-77) out of 100. Does not even crack in the top 50% of programs. If one of your students ranked below the 50th percentile in gpa, would you say they were a good student? Come on! In a field where 50% of tenure jobs go to students in the top 11 programs, being ranked 69th is far-far-far away from good.

  14. In his blog he writes “Tea Partiers have been elected in safe districts and often represent extreme positions compared to the median voter in any given precinct.” Tell me please, what is so extreme about having a government balance its budget. Can you imagine if individuals could print their own money? Tea Partiers are are not extreme. They only want accountability and a balanced budget, and hopefully, the Democratic Senate will submit a budget………..

  15. sorry to redirect, but I’m in the middle of writing poetry… see the extremes idea better here:

    There’s nothing extreme in wanting to balance the budget–unless you want to ax Obamacare and other healthcare, “broaden the tax base” –meaning, start taxing on the 47%–which is extreme “compared to the average Republican.” So, not in light of her policy, but in light of her position compared to the Republican Party.. much of Tea Partier Michelle Bachmann was saying… is extreme.

    • Many argue that Obamacare is extreme, and if it were not labeled a tax by the Supreme Court, then it would also be unconstitutional.

  16. We are talking about congressional voting. Plain and simple. See the plot in this link. I highlighted Ron Paul just to make the clearest argument. I think it is difficult to look at this plot and argue that compared to other members of his party that Ron Paul is not extreme. His NOMINATE score is 4.35 standard deviations away from his party mean!

    In terms of congressional voting, I see nothing extreme about the vote. Republicans voted against, Democrats (mostly) voted for it. Perhaps as a policy some argue that it is extreme, but that’s not what we are talking about. And those arguing that it is extreme as a policy are probably blinded by their perceptual biases. I DONT LIKE IT THEREFORE EXTREME! Come on, dude.

    Also a note for the future: Arguing that if someone had done something else to try to prove a point is not really effective. IF ONLY I HAD WON THE LOTTERY I’D BE RICH! Cool story.

  17. I have to agree; the original post is about extreme legislators with respect to their own party. Even though Ron Paul is old, he was the founder of the Tea Party before Fox’s Tea Party Express rolled out… I’ve been following. In fact, the point of “The Tea Party and the Remaking of Republican Conservatism” was that the Tea Party–including Ron Paul (even though Skocpol and Williamson briefly distinguish between the Baby-Boomer tea partiers from the young Ron Paul freedom fighters (my expression), has “moved” the Republican party towards the extreme–and I simply mean; away from the median voter. We are not talking about extreme legislation–and I wouldn’t consider Obamacare extreme legislation, if we were. It’s Mitt Romney’s state plan at the national level. …..but let’s leave healthcare alone for another post, please.

  18. Wonder what the effect is for MCs who are in the moderate wing of their party. I know they are more likely to be primary challenged, but not sure of how it effects the probability of them being reelected. Using the same methodology as those in Out of Touch but instead of extremes, use moderates and you have a decent conference paper.

  19. Take a slightly different approach, I guess. Just use a dummy variable for those in the 25th percentile of their parties NOMINATE score, when controlling for the other variables, does this moderate status have an effect on reelection share/probability?

    Authors could have created a few graphs too!

    • I still think that it would be better to show the parties ideological space over time; including their extreme MCs shifts too. You know, the surety model explains that MCs protect the party brand–however, there are many factions within each party–see blue dog Democrats v. environmentalists; or tea partiers v. classic moderates. So, empirically, how much political space do the party brands “own” on the Downsian continuum? Observably, Obama too more than 50% of the vote….twice…. has the Democratic brand, in 2012, encapsulated more of the electorate? Have the Republicans since 2003 been eviscerating their party brand? i.e., in 2000, W. Bush said we are not nation-builders…and the people cheered! Now check out my research (research tab) on the billions unaccounted for during Iraq reconstruction. Didn’t that war, in many ways, hurt the Republican brand name? Hurt the Republican ideal of fiscal responsibility?

  20. Something like this would show the ideological movement over time. I define the “extreme” republican mark as the person in the 75% of the NOMINATE score. Interesting that both median and extreme Republicans became more conservative at the same rate.

    This does not really speak to what degree a particular faction takes up space on the party brand though. I have a feeling someone has done this before (but I really do not remember), look at which members of the parties often appear for media interviews (Sunday morning shows, for example), or write op-eds in prominent papers, other brand making activities, who are these folks? Where do they place in ideological space? Which caucuses (for example, tea party, black, etc) to they belong?

  21. I guess another way to do it is to plot the ideological range of a particular caucuses or factions of a party. In the above example I plotted the range of Tea Party members. Tea Party members take up a quite the range of ideological restate in the Republican Party, only being excluded from the more moderate members and the most extreme. Interesting! The problem with plotting ranges forever, is it there is an outlier it may skew the the plot to make it look like there is more of a range that actually may be (like if only only Rep. was in the Tea Party and had a .501 score while all others were in the .655 range or something) but that is not the case here. The Tea Party members are fairly evenly distributed around the range. In fact. I was going to just plot the Tea Party as scatters, but it looked like a line anyways. So I figured that I might as well plot the range to make it look a little better. Enjoy.

    And thoughts!

  22. robust regression might help with a regression line–as it relates to party brand trajectory. You know what I mean?

    Is Tea Party legislation moving the Party Brand more quickly to the right than moderate legislation (like regression would say Tea Party legislation moves the Party brand to this “median Tea Party” location at this rate over moderate legislation in these political moments of contestation (i.e. Bail-outs); while moderate republicans (now we know who they are–after this Speaker defeat on Plan B–right?) move the party brand at this speed to their preferred median–which is based on winning elections according to Downs… (or Arrow’s theorem)?

    Isn’t an implication herein noted: moderates should be expected to argue credible commitments “more and more as the Median Voter” in order to shun the right (or left) caucuses or factions in order to protect the party brand?

    Now we are getting somewhere! 🙂


  23. very interesting “75% of the NOMINATE score” graph…if the Republicans keep going up that hill–do they fall off a Party Cliff? Do they isolate themselves from 60-65 percent of the voters at some point; say, .8?

    Per my former reply–had the two lines separated from each other–perhaps that would mean a fractured party about to break–just look at the Whig Party! We don’t seem to have a fractured party, accordingly.

    At first glance, the data suggests that the Tea Party has indeed moved the Republican Party to the Right. Good job!

  24. 1) I am not sure I understand your regression suggestion. What are purposing to regress against what? What is the dependent variable and what are the independent variables?

    2) I am not sure the scatter plot shows that the Tea Party has moved the Republican Party to the right. I think that it just shows that the Tea Party has a large ideological range in the Republican Party. Its range is from median Republicans to the more rightward extreme. Surely new representatives elected that embrace the Tea Party and belong to the caucus has moved the Republican median, but that is different from saying that the Tea Party has influence to force votes that move the party as a whole to the right.


    I’ve been connecting this conversation to the surety model (see link above). I’ll give you the arguments about the graphs you created… But let me forget about the surety model for a moment, and reply to something you seem to be interested in…

    Perhaps you prefer to research Zaller type explanations (see earlier conversations)…So let’s base something here on “The Nature and Origins of Mass Opinion.”

    So do constituents realize that their congressperson is “extreme” (DV) based on (IVs) news exposure (I don’t own a TV… I watch MSNBC twice a week–or, I watch FOX every night–Hannity rules!), campaign exposure (I never pay attention to ads, I pay attention to ads during the campaign; I’m a fanatic about ads), education (HS, BA, MA), race, and SES?

    Thinking Zaller, let’s keep in mind:

    Zaller is a response to Converse – longer questions with set (easier) frames showed higher constraint…Zaller tries to produce integrated or unified theory – worries that quest for parsimony keeps the field fragmented…Opinions = marriage of info + predisposition… Elite Discourse, levels of attention (awareness), differences in values and prepositions–> jointly influence attitudes/schemas.

    And let’s keep in mind Zaller’s axioms:
    i. Reception – the more we agree the more we are likely to tune in
    ii. Resistance –the more we disagree the more we tune out
    iii. Accessibility – more recent info is more important
    iv. Response – people answer with a running average across whatever is at hand.

    So, Many Sighs, according to Zaller, remember not to look at dependent variables separate (Congress, President, Local); rather, process for all decisions is similar or approached the same…look at how people answer questions…also how they use media to build answers.

    And what’s the hypothesis? H1: Voters do not vote for the most extreme candidate based on their self-administered Downsian placement. H2: The more extreme a candidate is compared to the opposing candidate, holding everything else constant, the less likely they will win election.

    Where’s the data?
    What are the holes in this argument / research inquiry?

  26. 1) This may be limited to Presidential elections, but I recently read Jessee’s Ideology and Spatial Voting In American Elections and he finds that respondents (in 2004 and 2008 presidential elections) were pretty good at estimating candidate ideology and in terms of ideological constraint, respondents show a high level of ideological constraint (can be defined on one dimension well). I am not sure this would apply to Congressional races, but its an interesting question to research. I think Jessee sets up a good framework for doing so and I would suggest any research follow his lead.

    2) Weakness would be that relying on self-placement on ideological continuum is tricky (Jessee talks about this too, and proposes and implements a good solution). Difficult to define who is an extreme candidate. Since not all candidates will have served in Congress they will not all have nominate scores. Instead you will have to rely on interest group ratings. I think I’ve read that nominate scores and interest group rankings correlate well, so its not really a weakness insomuch as its a pain to track down the ratings. Not sure what it means to be extreme compared to the opposing candidate? How is one candidate deemed extreme compared to the other?

    3) Some experimental data can be found in Sniderman and Stiglitz’s The Reputational Premium. They find that traditional partisans are more likely to vote for the candidate spatially closer than what they call programatic partisans who are more likely to stick with their party even if the ideological distance is further. Programatic partisans are those who are 1) sorted and 2) are able to identify that Democrats are to the left of Republicans along the ideological spectrum.

    I think there are some weaknesses to this study though. Its based on spatial representations of the parties. So for example, respondents are presented with something like this

    —–Candidate B——-You————–Candidate A
    and then asked for which candidate they would vote. Its rather abstract! And there is no real substance of issues there. On the whole B may be closer, but perhaps on issues more salient to the voter A is closer.

    Currently working on an experiment that seeks to remedy this problem, but rather not say too much about that until it is actually ran and the results are in.

  27. Also, seems like both your dependent variables are binary. So its best to use a logit rather than robust regression. Just FYI!

  28. Pingback: Poltical Scientists: “I’m American” | Political Pipeline

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