Explaining Variation in the Degree of Electoral Competition in a Mature Democracy: U.S. Senate Elections, 1922-2004

44 Pages Posted: 13 Aug 2009 Last revised: 18 Aug 2009

See all articles by Stanley L. Winer

Stanley L. Winer

Carleton University - School of Public Policy and Administration; Carleton University - Department of Economics; CESifo (Center for Economic Studies and Ifo Institute)

Lawrence W. Kenny

University of Florida - Warrington College of Business Administration - Department of Economics

Bernard Grofman

University of California, Irvine - Department of Politics and Society

Date Written: 2009

Abstract

The degree of electoral competition varies across space and time in all democracies. We present a model that explains why and how variation in the competitiveness of U.S. Senate elections arises as a result of the interaction of constraints on the ideological positioning of candidates and differences within and across state electorates. Using this framework, we show that the factors that pull candidate platforms apart, including greater heterogeneity within an electorate, and primaries that restrict the electorate to registered party members, also lead to an increase in the number of contests that are highly competitive. Empirical implementation of the model using data from almost all Senate elections from 1922 to 2004 leads to predictions about where Senate races will be highly competitive, confirms the comparative static properties of the model, and generally provides robust support for this understanding of the roots of variability in the degree of electoral competition.

Keywords: degree of electoral competition, U.S. Senate elections, heterogeneity of electorates, primaries

JEL Classification: D70

Suggested Citation

Winer, Stanley L. and Kenny, Lawrence W. and Grofman, Bernard, Explaining Variation in the Degree of Electoral Competition in a Mature Democracy: U.S. Senate Elections, 1922-2004 (2009). APSA 2009 Toronto Meeting Paper, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1450079

Stanley L. Winer (Contact Author)

Carleton University - School of Public Policy and Administration ( email )

1125 Colonel By Drive
Ottawa, Ontario K1S 5B6
Canada
613-520-2600 x2630 (Phone)
613-520-2551 (Fax)

HOME PAGE: http://www.carleton.ca/winer

Carleton University - Department of Economics ( email )

1125 Colonel By Drive
Ottawa, Ontario K1S 5B6
Canada
613-520-2600 ex.2630 (Phone)
613-520-2551 (Fax)

HOME PAGE: http://www.carleton.ca/winer

CESifo (Center for Economic Studies and Ifo Institute)

Poschinger Str. 5
Munich, DE-81679
Germany

Lawrence W. Kenny

University of Florida - Warrington College of Business Administration - Department of Economics ( email )

P.O. Box 117140
Gainesville, FL 32611-7140
United States
352-392-0117 (Phone)
352-392-7860 (Fax)

Bernard Grofman

University of California, Irvine - Department of Politics and Society ( email )

Irvine, CA 92697-5100
United States
(949) 824-6394, 5361 (Phone)

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