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Congressional elections research holds that Senate races are more competitive than House contests because states are more heterogeneous, or because candidates are more prominent and raise more money, or because voters have fundamentally different expectations. Because House and Senate contests are seldom compared, we have little empirical evidence to test the various hypotheses about how voters make choices for different offices. Gronke finds that the similarities between House and Senate elections are much greater than previously thought and that voters make their decisions in both races on the same bases.
Gronke first looks at differences in congressional districts and states, showing that context does not really help us understand why Senate elections feature better candidates, higher spending, and closer outcomes. Next, he turns to campaigns. Surprisingly, over a turbulent twenty-year period, House and Senate candidacies have retained the same competitive dynamics.
Gronke also considers voting behavior in House and Senate elections. Focusing on the 1988 and 1990 elections, he argues that voters do not distinguish between institutions, applying fundamentally the same decision rule, regardless of the office being contested. Gronke closes by considering the implications of his results for the way we relate settings, electoral dynamics, and institutional arrangements.
This book will appeal to those interested in Congress, political campaigning, and voting.
Paul Gronke is Associate Professor of Political Science at Reed College.
Senatorial constituencies (i.e. states) generally have much larger populations that the constituencies served by members of the House. In other words, senators must attempt to please many more people than representatives. ( Hibbing and Brandes 1983, 810)
One of the reasons that senators are more vulnerable is that they may attract better challengers than House member do. States, after all, are generally larger and more heterogeneous, and have better partisan balance than individual congressional districts. (Dodd and Oppenheimer 1989, 2)
[T]he size and political importance of Senate constituencies [contribute] to the political visibility of individual Senators. (Abramowitz 1988, 384)Richard Fenno, in his book comparing the Senate and House, writes extensively about the differences between House and Senate candidates: senators receive greater media coverage (1982, 9-11) and their constituencies are "more heterogeneous, more diffuse, and hence less easily or concretely discerned" (20). Scholars are virtually unanimous: states are more heterogeneous and complex, with a wider variety of conflicting political interests.
Excerpted from The Electorate, the Campaign, and the Office: a Unified Approach to Senate and House Elections by Paul Gronke Copyright © 2000 by Paul Gronke. Excerpted by permission.
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