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Congressional Seat Swings: Revisiting Exposure in House Elections

Ronald Keith Gaddie
Political Research Quarterly
Vol. 50, No. 3 (Sep., 1997), pp. 699-710
Published by: Sage Publications, Inc. on behalf of the University of Utah
DOI: 10.2307/448923
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/448923
Page Count: 12
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Congressional Seat Swings: Revisiting Exposure in House Elections
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Abstract

Oppenheimer, Stimson, and Waterman's exposure thesis of partisan change contends that shifts in the partisan composition of Congress are related to the long-term stability of the electoral system. Applying their exposure model to elections from 1962-1994 produces seat change estimates that generally follow the actual data pattern, but these estimates produce large predictive errors. When the exposure model is reestimated using data from 1962-1994, exposure is not significantly related to partisan seat swings. This article advances a seat change model that relies on an alternate measure of exposure: the net exposure of the president's party in open seats. Open-seat exposure is significantly related to the partisan seat swing, and substantially improves on the economic evaluation/surgeand-decline/exposure model of seat change. In an era of high incumbent security and strategic retirement from Congress, the balance of open seats is a better indicator of partisan vulnerability, and better reflects the nature of partisan exposure.

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