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Congressional Elections: The Case of the Vanishing Marginals

David R. Mayhew
Polity
Vol. 6, No. 3 (Spring, 1974), pp. 295-317
DOI: 10.2307/3233931
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/3233931
Page Count: 23
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Congressional Elections: The Case of the Vanishing Marginals
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Abstract

Party gains and losses in House seats constitute one instrument, however imperfect, for voter influence on the national government, Mayhew suggests. But the data indicate that "the House seat swing is a phenomenon of fast declining amplitude and therefore of fast declining significance." In the 1956-72 period the number of districts with close House elections dropped precipitously; a similar, if slow, long-range decline has been occurring. We don't really know the causes, but Mayhew indicates possible causes and asks us to ponder the consequences. The piece is replete with numbers, but clearly they are handmaiden to an inquiry into politics. The paper was originally presented at the Spring, 1973 New England Political Science Association meetings.

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