The Effects of Legislation on Reelection


Political Science 284


March 6, 2002

What Is being Studied:
The reasons for reelection of incumbents to congress have been studied extensively in the past. Many studies focus on campaigning strategies such as negative ads, focus on personal traits, and others. These types of studies use the actual events of the campaign to explain reelection. This study endeavors to put evidence forward that the result of reelection can be triggered long before the campaign begins, during the congressman’s term itself. The job of any representative of the people is to do just that, represent the people. Voters, no matter the party, will elect a person they feel will represent their needs the best. Once elected to office a representative has a certain freedom to make his own judgments of what those needs are. Interpret those needs incorrectly and a Congressman may be looking for work. Congressmen show their constituents that they understand their needs of the district by introducing legislation and voting for bills that favor the majority of their constituents. This is some times called pork barrel legislation. When congressmen introduce legislation that benefits their constituents they are more likely to get reelected. Benefits can be the opening of a military base that would bring jobs or more federal funding for bridges or roads. Any legislation that brings jobs, money, or prestige to a district helps for the next election. This may be true even if the bill is not turned into law. Just the act of introducing a bill of this kind can be seen by constituents as the congressman trying to better the district he represents. This can be a better campaign instrument than any ad or rally.

Previous Research:
Certain aspects of this argument have been studied before. In the study called “The Role of Constituent Trust in Congressional Elections”, Glenn Parker introduces a new variable into the study of congressional elections. That of constituent trust, which is a level of confidence the constituents have in their representatives. The study states that this trust is a strong indicator of electoral support both directly and indirectly. From this study of trust I come to my hypothesis, which takes the analysis of trust further to say that this trust comes from the introduction of legislation which in-turn benefits the constituents and increases the probability that reelection will occur. Trust is built by the congressmen showing they care for the interests of the district through legislation. Glenn Parker also studies aspects of this concept in “ the advantage of incumbency in House elections” and “Incumbent popularity and electoral success.” Where as these studies try to show the existence of an advantage in elections for incumbents this study attempts to show why the advantage exists. In a passage from Barbara Hinckley’s “The American voter in congressional elections”, she states that “Incumbents run interference for constituents with the bureaucracy, claim credit for federal projects in their districts, and provide other popular and non controversial constituency services.” This study emphasizes the part about claiming credit for federal projects and the effects of getting this credit. If these studies can be assumed to be correct then it is true that incumbents take credit for federal projects in their district and it is also true that constituency trust can be a factor in determining electoral support. When these two truths are pushed together my hypothesis of legislation helping in reelection can be drawn logically.


Location of information:


All of the information needed to conduct this study is readily at hand through databases on line such as Congressional Universe and the Office of the Clerk site. These sites include all of they information available for all the bills ever introduced. They also include a complete list of congressmen. From these a study to see if the hypothesis is correct can be conducted.


How the study will be conducted:


First a section of congressmen who have ran for reelection must be selected randomly. This will include those presently in congress who won the election of 2000 and those congressmen who loss the election of 2000. Once the number of legislation introduced between the two groups is known a difference should appear. The sample being studied should be large enough to represent