Philipp Tillman (Chicago University)
7 February 2014 @ 12:00
“Entry into Electoral Races and the Quality of Representation”
U.S. Congressmen are very likely to be reelected and survey evidence suggests that voters are satisfied with their representatives. On the other hand, a large political science literature interprets the high incumbent reelection rate as evidence of lacking entry by strong challengers, analyzing its sources, consequences, and potential cures. This paper analyzes the extent to which there is a pool of potential candidates voters prefer to actual candidates, and what policies are effective at encouraging entry by preferable candidates. I construct a novel dataset with detailed information on the political experiences and prominence of actual as well as potential candidates and use it to estimate an entry and voting model. My estimates show that there is a large pool of preferable potential candidates who stay out of electoral races. I simulate the effects of different policies that have been suggested in the literature to make elections more competitive. Introducing term limits, imposing campaign spending limits, and increasing the compensation of representatives substantially encourage the entry and election of preferable candidates. I demonstrate that the stronger a winning candidate is according to my estimates, the less extremely he votes in Congress, the more federal funds he attracts for his district, and the fewer bills he sponsors.