It is an established truth that incumbents have a large advantage in congressional elections. Conventional wisdom holds that a major source of their advantage is the ability to secure localized benefits while in office for which they can claim credit during the next campaign. Given the breadth of spending on these programs, it is not surprising that a sizable literature has developed addressing questions of who gets benefits, how much they get, and how they affect elections. It is assumed that securing and claiming credit for these benefits adds to incumbency advantage because voters always prefer more to less. However, the literature does not address conditions under which this assumption might not hold for individual voters.
I propose a theory of voting behavior that identifies ideology and political awareness as two individual characteristics that condition the electoral effects of distributive benefits. Conservatives and liberals differ in their preferences for public policy generally. They should also differ in their voting behavior when faced with a change in distributive spending. These effects are observed primarily in voters who are politically aware. Specifically, aware conservatives are less likely to support incumbents who secure a large amount of distributive benefits while aware liberals are more likely to support the same incumbents. This presents an additional opportunity for campaigns to impact the election by drawing attention to levels of distributive spending.
|School:||State University of New York at Stony Brook|
|School Location:||United States -- New York|
|Source:||DAI-A 69/10, Dissertation Abstracts International|
|Keywords:||Congressional elections, Credit claiming, Distributive benefits, Elections, Pork barrel, Voter heterogeneity, Voting behavior|
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