Why do Legislators Skip Votes? Position Taking Versus Policy Influence

Why do Legislators Skip Votes? Position Taking Versus Policy Influence A legislator’s duty is to vote on legislation, yet legislators routinely miss votes. Existing studies of absenteeism have focused on the US Congress, producing useful but partial explanations. We provide added insight by examining absenteeism in American state legislatures. Our data include 2,916,471 individual votes cast by 4392 legislators from 64 legislative chambers. This rich, multistate dataset produces insights that build on and sometimes conflict with Congressional research. We use a multilevel logistic model with nested and crossed random effects to estimate the influence of variables at five different levels. In particular, we investigate whether state legislators miss unimportant votes or important votes. Contrary to what Congressional studies have found, we find that state legislators avoid participating in close or major votes, favoring reelection concerns over policy influence. We also find that state-to-state variations in legislative professionalism—in particular, the length of the session—affect absenteeism, with shorter sessions leading to higher absenteeism. http://www.deepdyve.com/assets/images/DeepDyve-Logo-lg.png Political Behavior Springer Journals

Why do Legislators Skip Votes? Position Taking Versus Policy Influence

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Publisher
Springer US
Copyright
Copyright © 2016 by Springer Science+Business Media New York
Subject
Political Science and International Relations; Political Science; Sociology, general
ISSN
0190-9320
eISSN
1573-6687
D.O.I.
10.1007/s11109-016-9362-8
Publisher site
See Article on Publisher Site

Abstract

A legislator’s duty is to vote on legislation, yet legislators routinely miss votes. Existing studies of absenteeism have focused on the US Congress, producing useful but partial explanations. We provide added insight by examining absenteeism in American state legislatures. Our data include 2,916,471 individual votes cast by 4392 legislators from 64 legislative chambers. This rich, multistate dataset produces insights that build on and sometimes conflict with Congressional research. We use a multilevel logistic model with nested and crossed random effects to estimate the influence of variables at five different levels. In particular, we investigate whether state legislators miss unimportant votes or important votes. Contrary to what Congressional studies have found, we find that state legislators avoid participating in close or major votes, favoring reelection concerns over policy influence. We also find that state-to-state variations in legislative professionalism—in particular, the length of the session—affect absenteeism, with shorter sessions leading to higher absenteeism.

Journal

Political BehaviorSpringer Journals

Published: Sep 14, 2016

References

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