Quantifying the value that legislators give to reelection relative to policy
sacrifices is crucial to understanding electoral accountability. We estimate the
preferences for office and policy of members of the US Senate, using a struc-
tural approach that exploits variation in polls, position-taking and advertising
throughout the electoral cycle. We then combine these estimates with estimates
of the electoral effectiveness of policy moderation and political advertising to
quantify electoral accountability in competitive and uncompetitive elections.
We find that senators differ markedly in the value they give to securing office
relative to policy gains: while over a fourth of senators are highly ideological,
a sizable number of senators are willing to make relatively large policy con-
cessions to attain electoral gains. Nevertheless, electoral accountability is only
moderate on average, due to the relatively low impact of changes in senators’
voting records on voter support.
Download Paper (Last Version: June, 2020)