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Jacobson: The politics of Congressional elections

Disclaimer. Don't rely on these old notes in lieu of reading the literature, but they can jog your memory. As a grad student long ago, my peers and I collaborated to write and exchange summaries of political science research. I posted them to a wiki-style website. "Wikisum" is now dead but archived here. I cannot vouch for these notes' accuracy, nor can I say who wrote them.

Jacobson. 2004. The politics of Congressional elections, 6th ed. New York: Pearson.

In Brief

Jacobson presents a comprehensive review and synthesis of the current literature on Congressional elections. He sorts the literature into three levels of analysis: Individual (voter), district (candidate), and aggregate (national). In general, these three literatures address questions along these lines:

Plan of the Book

Chapter 2 explains the legal and institutional context within which Congressional elections occur. Chapters 3 and 4 examine district-level theories. Chapter 5 examines individual-level theories. Chapter 6 examines aggregate (national-level) theories. Finally, Chapter 7 explores the implications of all these theories for democratic governance.

The Institutional and Legal Context of Congressional Elections (ch 2)

District-Level Theories

Congressional Candidates (ch 3)

Because candidates are central, they give themselves an incumbency advantage. These allow them to advertise and claim credit:

Incumbents' careers follow two main stages (see Fenno):

Money is increasingly concentrated in weak and open seats.

Spending helps challengers but doesn't help incumbents.

Why do challengers enter when their odds are so low?

Congressional Campaigns (ch 4)

Individual-level Explanations: Congressional Voters (ch 5)

Aggregate Explanations: National Conditions and Congressional Elections (ch 6)

Effects of Electoral Politics on Congressional Performance (ch 7)

Theme: "How members win and hold office powerfully affects the internal organization of the houses of Congress, the kind of legislation they produce, and the kind of representation Americans therefore receive" (p 219).





Voters realigning < --- > Parties offering more polar offerings




Research by the same authors

Research on similar subjects


Jacobson, Gary (author)American PoliticsVotingCongress (U.S.)ElectionsIncumbency AdvantageResponsiveness

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