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Electoral Incentives and Party Polarization in Congress

Tarpey, Matthew (2021) Electoral Incentives and Party Polarization in Congress. Doctoral Dissertation, University of Pittsburgh. (Unpublished)

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This dissertation studies the relationship between elections and party polarization in the Congress. In three related essays, I identify electoral incentives for partisan voting on legislation. The first paper argues that elections create incentives for party-line voting on legislation associated with the president because of the electoral benefits that presidential legislative success affords members of the president's party. Using data on legislative and electoral outcomes, I show that the president successfully enacting their legislative agenda advantages members of the president's party electorally, but the legislative success of the party and individual members of the party are not consistently tied to election outcomes. The second paper argues that primary elections also incentivize adherence to the positions of co-partisan presidents. Using data on primary elections for the House of Representatives for the period 1970 to 2010, I show that greater legislative support of the president improves all indicators of members' performance in primary elections, independent of established determinants of primary election outcomes. The final paper develops a theory to explain why inter-party competition for control of government incentivizes party-line voting on salient legislation. A series of experiments demonstrate that greater cross-party support for legislation improves public perceptions of the quality of the legislation among all groups of voters, and especially among low-information voters with weak partisan ties. Importantly, cross-party support has a secondary, indirect effect of improving perceptions of the proposing party's ability to develop good policy, which creates electoral incentives for members to oppose policies developed by their political competitors.


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Item Type: University of Pittsburgh ETD
Status: Unpublished
CreatorsEmailPitt UsernameORCID
Tarpey, Matthewmmt52@umw.edummt52
ETD Committee:
TitleMemberEmail AddressPitt UsernameORCID
Committee ChairWoon,
Committee MemberBonneau,
Committee MemberKanthak,
Committee MemberMinozzi,
Date: 12 January 2021
Date Type: Publication
Defense Date: 2 August 2019
Approval Date: 12 January 2021
Submission Date: 3 December 2020
Access Restriction: 2 year -- Restrict access to University of Pittsburgh for a period of 2 years.
Number of Pages: 100
Institution: University of Pittsburgh
Schools and Programs: Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences > Political Science
Degree: PhD - Doctor of Philosophy
Thesis Type: Doctoral Dissertation
Refereed: Yes
Uncontrolled Keywords: party polarization, elections, political parties
Date Deposited: 12 Jan 2021 16:45
Last Modified: 12 Jan 2023 06:15

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