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Journal Article

The Effect of the Size of Voting Blocs on Incumbents' Roll-Call Voting and the Asymmetric Polarization of Congress

DANIEL M. BUTLER
Legislative Studies Quarterly
Vol. 34, No. 3 (August 2009), pp. 297-318
Published by: Washington University
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/20680244
Page Count: 22
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Since scans are not currently available to screen readers, please contact JSTOR User Support for access. We'll provide a PDF copy for your screen reader.
The Effect of the Size of Voting Blocs on Incumbents' Roll-Call Voting and the Asymmetric Polarization of Congress
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Abstract

Candidates face a trade-off in the general election between taking a more-moderate position that appeals to swing voters and a more-extreme position that appeals to voters in the party's base. The threat of abstention by voters in the party's base if their candidate takes a position too moderate for them moves candidates to take more-extreme positions. I discuss hypotheses regarding how this trade-off affects candidate positioning and describe my tests of those hypotheses using data on House members in the 107th Congress and Senate members for the period 1982-2004. I then present data on how the distribution of voters in the electorate has changed over the past three decades and discuss how, in light of my empirical findings, these changes might explain the observed pattern of asymmetric polarization in Congress in recent decades.

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