Monday, October 3, 2011

IRCPPS in the Links: Explaining Congressional Deadlock

In the Monkey Cage, Gregory Kroger summarizes and discusses a recent Journal of Politics article by Philip Jones in an attempt to explain why the US Congress so often deadlocks and fails to compromise on even routine legislation:
Jones finds that voters weighed policy positions in their vote choices, while “peace and prosperity” outcomes had little impact on voters’ support for incumbent senators.  Figure 1 displays these findings:  the nearly flat lines for the first two charts show the minimal effect of policy outcomes on vote choice, while the steep upward slope of the bottom figure illustrates how the more voters agree with senators on policy positions, the more likely they were to vote for the incumbent...

...As Jones points out, these results are a “relief” to members of Congress, who have little personal control over collective policy outcomes but do control their portfolio of issue positions.  On the other hand, these results also help explain why it is so hard for members of Congress to compromise (say, on FY2012 appropriations bills): deviating from their policy positions to achieve a compromise may have significant electoral costs with little political gain for actually getting something done.