Atlantic Economic Journal

, Volume 23, Issue 4, pp 293-303

First online:

Bimodal issues, the median voter model, Legislator's ideology, and abortion

  • Marshall H. MedoffAffiliated withCalifornia State University
  • , Christopher DennisAffiliated withCalifornia State University
  • , Benjamin G. BishinAffiliated withUniversity of California

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The median voter model is widely used in the public choice literature to explain legislator's behavior. According to the model, if voter preferences are unimodal, a vote-maximizing legislator should mirror the position of the median voter. However, the median voter model has not been tested on bimodal issues. This paper fills this critical void by empirically testing the applicability of the median voter model on an issue which clearly meets the criteria for being bimodal: abortion. Using a variety of attitudinal measures from large sample public opinion polls and constituency demographics, this study finds that Senate voting on the 1994 Freedom of Abortion Access bill was highly related to the senator's personal characteristics—especially ideology—and not to constituent opinion or demographics.