A model of legislative voting with two -year terms

John Clifford Hansen, Purdue University


This paper will shed some light on the legislative voting literature by using a standard median voter model, however, the legislator's term is split into two distinct voting years. This allows us to analyze in more detail the voting decisions made by Congressmen. We estimate a voting record based on constituency variables and calculate the residual. We find that a higher first-year residual on the part of a congressman causes a lower probability of being reelected. In addition, we find that the first-year residual plays the key role in this lower reelection probability. The second-year residual lacks any consistent significance with regards to the reelection probability. In this paper, we also analyze two different effects that have been predominant in the literature: the sorting effect and the tenure effect. Using our comprehensive data set, from 1983–1996, we find that both effects do exist. Moreover, older congressmen (those closer to retirement) had lower residuals. For the years 1983 to 1992, the two effects counteracted each other and caused no net impact on the first-year residual. For the years 1993–1996, the sorting effect dominated the tenure effect and showed that members with higher tenures had lower first-year residuals. The second part of this paper analyzed the changes in voting records after a member of congress decides to retire. Using the whole data set we find that retiring members of congress had larger residual differences, both in standard difference and absolute value. Plus, retiring members of congress deviated more in their voting records from their past average and their last term's voting record. Their difference in voting record from their penultimate term to their last term exceeded the mean difference for the rest of the congress. Finally, their two voting records in their last term were significantly less correlated than the two voting records for the rest of the congress. These results all imply that retiring members of congress vote differently than other members of congress and differently than they had in the past, i.e. further away from the interests of their constituents. ^




Major Professor: John M. Barron, Purdue University.

Subject Area

Economics, General|Economics, Labor|Political Science, Public Administration

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