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The Congressional Incumbency Effect: Is It Casework, Policy Compatibility, or Something Else? An Examination of the 1978 Election

John R. Johannes and John C. McAdams
American Journal of Political Science
Vol. 25, No. 3 (Aug., 1981), pp. 512-542
DOI: 10.2307/2110817
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2110817
Page Count: 31
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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 Congressional Incumbency Effect: Is It Casework, Policy Compatibility, or Something Else? An Examination of the 1978 Election
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Abstract

Using returns from the 1978 congressional elections, we estimate the effects of three strategies that incumbents may use to increase their vote totals and improve their reelection prospects: (1) the provision of particularized service to constituents--the casework hypothesis, (2) ideological positioning to represent the policy preferences of the district, and (3) legislative activism, defined as appearing on the floor and introducing bills. Using multiple regression to control for the effects of district partisan composition, district socioeconomic status (SES), the member's seniority, and national partisan swings, we find that casework has no statistically significant effect and further find that a substantively important effect is unlikely, given our estimates. Ideological positioning shows effects that are statistically significant and large enough to substantially affect a member's reelection prospects. Finally, some aspects of legislative activism seem to pay off for incumbents. Analysis of the Center for Political Studies (CPS) 1978 National Election Study data confirms the aggregate results, shows small but statistically significant effects from pork barreling, and distinguishes two types of issue-oriented voting.

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