While elections are essential to a democracy, it is commonly believed that the desire to secure re-election causes legislators to engage in many undesirable activities. In this note, by comparing the behavior of U.S. representatives who have chosen to run for reelection with those representatives who have decided not to do so, we provide evidence of the precise activities induced by electoral concerns. We find that elections cause members to go back to the district more often, to employ more staff assistants, to attend to roll-call voting more fastidiously, and to be more legislatively active. While these activities are no doubt consistent with the wishes of most constituents, the desire for reelection also encourages members to introduce what is apparently frivolous legislation on topics of little familiarity to the member. Those members who are not running for reelection, on the other hand, are more likely to have a successful and tightly focused legislative agenda.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Sociology and Political Science