Essays on elections and legislative behavior
- This dissertation consists of three essays at the intersection of political behavior and legislative institutions. In the first essay, co-authored with Kyle Dropp, we examine the relationship between legislators' electoral environment and the provision of constituency service in the Texas State Legislature. Using fictitious constituent requests soliciting information on voter registration and a government program, we analyze the relationship between legislators' previous vote share and the probability of legislator response. To account for possible simultaneity bias of constituency service and election results, we employ an instrumental variables approach. In contrast with previous empirical studies, we find that legislators' response rates to constituent requests decreases in their electoral security across a wide range of model specifications that control for legislator-specific characteristics. We also investigate how electoral security affects legislators' provision of legislative public goods and find some suggestive evidence that electoral security increases the number of bills legislators author, but has little effect on other measures of legislative production. The second essay studies the ideological information that voters use to choose among candidates for congressional office. Voters are frequently uncertain of candidates' true political preferences in congressional election campaigns. To infer candidates' ideological locations, voters can use candidates' party affiliation, announced individual policy positions, and history of experience in elective office. I develop an empirical model of congressional outcomes and, using data on candidate positioning and election returns from 1996, I estimate the relative importance of candidates' individual and party positions in voters' decisions. I find that the party position has little effect on incumbent vote share, but has a meaningful effect on election returns for non-incumbent challengers. To accommodate the possibility of candidate positioning that is endogenous to unobserved valence, I examine the sample of repeat challengers in House elections from 1992 to 2008 to condition out unobserved candidate valence differentials. I obtain similar results to the baseline specifications. The results change our understanding of how party affiliation affects congressional elections and have important implications for both political behavior and legislative organization. The third essay examines methodological challenges in estimating the effect of candidate characteristics on election outcomes. Scholars routinely use district-level congressional election results to study the effects of campaign spending, incumbency, roll-call voting records, and other candidate characteristics on election outcomes. In the absence of individual-level data, the analyst must make strong assumptions about how citizens choose among candidates and how voter preferences are distributed within districts to consistently recover these effects. I show that the canonical approach to this problem, an OLS regression of election results on candidate characteristics, can be justified when voter ideal points are uniformly distributed within districts. However, public opinion data suggest that the uniformity assumption is a poor approximation to contemporary voter preferences. I propose an alternative statistical approach to accommodate richer cross-district variation in voter preferences. I examine the finite sample properties of the estimator under alternative assumptions about the distribution of voter ideal points. I then apply my estimation approach to examine the effect of incumbent roll-call voting on election outcomes. Using individual-level data from the Cooperative Congressional Election Study as a baseline, I find that the point estimates of my estimator are approximately 40 percent closer to the baseline estimates than the OLS estimates and are less prone to false rejection of the null hypothesis.
|Type of resource
|electronic; electronic resource; remote
|1 online resource.
|Peskowitz, Zachary Fox
|Stanford University, Graduate School of Business.
|Krehbiel, Keith, 1955-
|Krehbiel, Keith, 1955-
|Wand, Jonathan, 1974-
|Wand, Jonathan, 1974-
|Statement of responsibility
|Submitted to the Graduate School of Business.
|Thesis (Ph.D.)--Stanford University, 2012.
- © 2012 by Zachary Fox Peskowitz
- This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial 3.0 Unported license (CC BY-NC).
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