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Policy Divergence in Races for the U.S. House of Representatives


  • Christopher S. P. Magee
  • Amy M. Wolaver


Objective. This article investigates the extent to which opposing candidates for the U.S. House of Representatives adopt differing policy stances and examines explanations for policy divergence. Methods. We use a Congressional Quarterly survey of 1996 House candidates to measure policy divergence on eight issues. We then test explanations for this divergence: party pressures, primaries, third‐party candidates, campaign contributions, candidate preferences, and uncertainty. Results. Primaries, third‐party challenges, and contributions play little role in explaining policy divergence. We find that party and candidate preferences contribute to differences in the policy platforms of opposing candidates while uncertainty weakens the pressure for policy convergence. Conclusion. Imperfect information weakens pressure on candidates to adopt positions favored by the majority of voters in a district. This lack of pressure allows candidates to indulge their personal and party preferences in taking policy stances.

Suggested Citation

  • Christopher S. P. Magee & Amy M. Wolaver, 2005. "Policy Divergence in Races for the U.S. House of Representatives," Social Science Quarterly, Southwestern Social Science Association, vol. 86(3), pages 565-581, September.
  • Handle: RePEc:bla:socsci:v:86:y:2005:i:3:p:565-581
    DOI: 10.1111/j.0038-4941.2005.00318.x

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Enelow,James M. & Hinich,Melvin J., 1984. "The Spatial Theory of Voting," Cambridge Books, Cambridge University Press, number 9780521275156.
    2. Magee,Stephen P. & Brock,William A. & Young,Leslie, 1989. "Black Hole Tariffs and Endogenous Policy Theory," Cambridge Books, Cambridge University Press, number 9780521377003, October.
    3. Anthony Downs, 1957. "An Economic Theory of Political Action in a Democracy," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 65, pages 135-135.
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