Three Essays on Congressional Elections and Representation
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CitationWilliams, Joseph Russell. 2013. Three Essays on Congressional Elections and Representation. Doctoral dissertation, Harvard University.
AbstractDemocracy depends upon the competition between candidates or ideas. However, practices or procedures sometimes preclude the consideration of the full range of options. Can campaign spending predict who wins elections? What explains why incumbent electoral security is only rarely threatened? Can committees or individuals in Congress stifle the will of a legislative majority? Essay #1. Politicians spend vast sums of money in order to win or retain a seat in Congress; does it predict who will win? In this essay I present a forecast model for elections to the US House of Representatives that specifically includes a measure of campaign spending.The advantages of the new model are that it relies on publicly available data, its results are easy to interpret, and the forecasts are comparable to other models.Essay #2. For a variety of reasons, incumbents expect to win reelection. There are few explanations for why that advantage occasionally seems to disappear. In this essay, I synthesize the literature on incumbency advantage, congressional redistricting, and voter behavior. I present evidence from the 2006-2010 election cycles suggesting that congressional districts drawn with the expectation of consistent partisan loyalty rates left incumbents susceptible to national tides brought about by temporary asymmetric departures from partisan voting norms. Essay #3. Although there is a large literature devoted to analyses of legislative committee gate keeping, Crombez, Groseclose, and Krehbiel (2006) argued that formal gate keeping is explicitly ruled out in most deliberative bodies. In this essay, I examine the historical development of rules and procedures in the US House of Representatives which explain the lack of formal gate keeping rules. I present evidence of non-majoritarian outcomes in the House despite it being a majoritarian body. I conclude the essay by suggesting a new definition of gate keeping based on the ability to alter the probability of proposal success on the floor instead of the formal ability to kill legislation.
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