Project

Polarization and Electoral Systems

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Jesse Crosson
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For decades, critics of pluralism have argued that the American interest group system exhibits a significantly biased distribution of policy preferences. We evaluate this argument by measuring groups' revealed preferences directly, developing a set of ideal point estimates, IGscores, for over 2,600 interest groups and 950 members of Congress on a common scale. We generate the scores by jointly scaling a large dataset of interest groups' positions on congressional bills with roll-call votes on those same bills. Analyses of the scores uncover significant heterogeneity in the interest group system, with little conservative skew and notable inter-party differences in preference correspondence between legislators and ideologically similar groups. Conservative bias and homogeneity reappear, however, when weighting IGscores by groups' campaign contributions and lobbying expenditures. These findings suggest that bias among interest groups depends on the extent to which activities like contributions and lobbying influence policymakers' perceptions about the preferences of organized interests.
Jesse Crosson
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We examine the mechanical effect of a multiple vote, proportional representation electoral system on party vote share in n dimensions. In one dimension, Cox (1990) has proven that such a system is centripetal: it drives parties to the center of the political spectrum. However, as populism has swept across Western Europe and the United States, the importance of multiple policy dimensions has grown considerably. We use simulations to examine how a multiple vote system could alter electoral outcomes in all possible parliamentary systems. We find that multiple vote systems act centripetally in multiple dimensions too, though weakly in extreme cases where parties are sorted into ideological clusters at opposite corners of the ideological space. Even in these cases, though, we find that a slight disturbance of the conditions (by introducing an additional party- even if it is very small) strengthens the centripetal properties of the multiple vote system.