| Gabriel |
Last week on econtalk, the guest was David Brady who, among other things talked about how Congressmen very precisely tailor their voting to their districts. So Congressmen whose party platform is unpopular in their district will vote to the center so as to decouple their particular identity from that of the national party. The “people in my district know I’m not a typical [Democrat/Republican]” thing. Furthermore, he presented some evidence that this strategy is effective and the guys who practice it get reelected. OK, fair enough, my vague understanding is this is typical of the poli sci of Congress literature.
Of course, there’s another poli sci literature that can be summed up as the “voters are morons” school. (One famous paper compares voters to Homer Simpson, another by the same author showed that voters seem to blame politicians for the weather and shark attacks). The general thrust of this literature is that voters don’t know who their congressman is, yet alone the subtle intricacies of his voting record, but if you’re lucky voters understand party platforms fairly well and use party as a heuristic. (This doesn’t strike me as a particularly bad voting strategy, for instance if you are a Nevada voter very interested in culture war issues, which is actually better to predict how Harry Reid will vote on important things like filibustering a conservative SCOTUS nom, his party affiliation or his centrist voting record?).
What I don’t get about political science is how you can have the “I vote with my district” and the “voters are morons” findings in the same quadrant (American) of the same discipline (poli sci). This is like finding out that your friend writes the most amazingly personalized love letters to his wife and they seem to have a good marriage but he has never noticed that she doesn’t speak English. The only way I can think of to reconcile these two findings is if opposition candidates were able to use campaign ads to draw attention to voting records that are out-of-whack with the district — “Congressman Incumbent says he shares Utah values, but what he doesn’t want you to know is that he voted to teach masturbation to kindergartners.” Hopefully some political scientist has squared this circle, if so, I salute him/her.
On another note, despite not being a political scientist, I still feel qualified to call this one for the Tories.
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