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Public Choice

, Volume 67, Issue 1, pp 11–33 | Cite as

Shirking, representation, and Congressional behavior: Voting on the 1983 amendments to the Social Security Act

  • Lilliard E. RichardsonJr.
  • Michael C. Munger
Article

Summary

Our central goals at the outset of the paper were three: (1) to report on the relative significance of a sophisticated measure of constituent economic interest and a commonly used variable, ADA score, that purports to measure the personal ideology of the candidate; (2) demonstrate that the constituent economic interest variable should be adjusted to account for the fact thatvoters, not citizens, are the only effective principals in influencing a legislator's voting activities; and (3) call into question, on both theoretical and empirical grounds, the claim that legislators shirk their responsibilities to voters by voting their own ideological preferences.
In order to evaluate our efforts, consider Table 5. For a large majority (15) of the 18 relevant runs, the ideological variable is significant. Our measure of constituent economic interests does not eliminate the explanatory power of the ideological voting variable, but this does not indicate shirking. As opposed to shirking, we may observe ideological voting because (1) it provides brand name capital, (2) it represents the ideological preferences of the constituents, or (3) it acts as a measure of median voter economic preferences. Further, ADA scores do not allow us to differentiate between these competing explanations.

Table 5. Comparison of House and Senate results

Economic variable

Ideological variable

House

Senate

Total

Significant

Not significant

Significant

Not significant

Kalt-Zupan Insignificant

4

4

Kalt-Zupan Significant

3

3

2

8

Peltzman Insignificant

3

3

Peltzman Significan

3

3

Total

3

3

12

0

18

For 11 of the 18 models one of the economic variables accounts for a significant portion of the variance in the dependent variables. The results derived from our measure of constituent economic interests contradict most findings of the LASI school and raise questions about the validity of the empirical characterization of constituent interests in that research.

A breakdown of the results by chamber indicates that significant differences in the degree of ideological voting between the House and Senate may exist. This is important in that most research has focused only on the Senate where ideological voting is more prevalent. For the House, Table 5 reveals the constituent economic interest variable isalways significant, and in fully one-half of the relevant regressions it is theonly significant variable, knocking ADA out of the race. As noted earlier, the insignificance of ADA is some indication of the absence of ideological shirking though its significance may indicate only measurement error, voter ideology, or reputational capital. In the Senate, the results are more evenly split, though it is clear that the adjusted (for reelection constituency) economic interest variable is an improvement. ADA is significant in all 12 Senate regressions, and the respective economic variables are significant in 5, or just under half.

This side-by-side comparison is provocative, though it remains to be tested in detail. But our preliminary conclusions can be stated as follows. First, as Peltzman (1984) suggested, a better specification of economic interest and constituency representation reduces, though it does not eliminate, the role of the ADA variable in the Senate. Second, we find evidence that ideological shirking, if it exists, is much smaller in the House. In fact, from an institutional perspective, it can be argued that economic interests are dominant, since House districts are smaller and more homogeneous. Further, the shorter terms for House members may make them more directly accountable to voters, and smaller groups of voters may force a lesser reliance on pure ideological campaigning and require a more personal presentation of self.

Keywords

Economic Interest Median Voter Ideological Preference Economic Preference Vote Activity 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

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Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 1990

Authors and Affiliations

  • Lilliard E. RichardsonJr.
    • 1
  • Michael C. Munger
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of Political ScienceDuke UniversityDurham
  2. 2.Department of Political ScienceUniversity of North CarolinaChapel Hill

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