Severing the Electoral Connection: Shirking in the Contemporary Congress

  • Rothenberg L
  • Sanders M
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Studies of representation focusing on legislative shirking tend to offer an interesting tension: when the opportunity presents itself, it seems that exiting members do not change their voting behavior (ideological shirking) but do reduce their effort level by voting less (participatory shirking). Our analysis avoids the pitfalls of prior studies by defining a simple, quasi-experimental, research design contrasting those certain that they are seeking reelection with those sure that they are departing the House for the 102nd, 103rd, and 104th Congresses (1991-1996). We measure changes in ideology and participation using all roll-call votes in the last six months of election years, controlling for possible member selection effects and short-term influences, and show that legislators are disposed toward ideological and participatory shirking while selection effects are unimportant. Thus, we reconcile results seemingly at odds and suggest that policies affecting member turnover, such as term limits, can interfere with representation.

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  • Lawrence S. Rothenberg

  • Mitchell S. Sanders

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