Is Polarization Hurting the Re-election Chances of House Incumbents? The Effect of Roll-Call Voting Records on Election Results, 1900-2010

Event Sponsor
The Munro Lectureship Fund and The Lane Center

Arjun Wilkins, Fourth Year Ph.D. Candidate, Stanford University



Previous research has demonstrated that incumbents who have more “ideologically extreme” roll-call voting records face a higher risk of losing re-election than those with more moderate voting records. I demonstrate that incumbents between 1934 and 1980 faced a higher penalty for extreme voting records than incumbents from 1900 to 1930 or 1984 to 2010. Congressional polarization was much lower between 1934 and 1980 than in other years, yet as incumbents have polarized, they have not become more likely to lose.



Arjun Wilkins is a fourth year Ph.D. candidate, whose areas of interest include congressional elections, political partisanship, and quantitative methodology. His dissertation project examines changes in party identification in the U.S. from 1937 to the present and their impact on electoral outcomes.