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Lies, Damned Lies, and Campaign Promises? Environmental Legislation in the 105th Congress


  • *Direct correspondence to Evan J. Ringquist, School of Public and Environmental Affairs, Indiana University, Bloomington, IN 47405 〈〉. All data and coding information are available from the first author. We wish to thank Bob O'Connor, Glenn Parker, Mitch Sanders, Jerry Wright, participants in a research colloquium at Penn State University, and two anonymous reviewers for helpful comments and suggestions.


Objective. The extent to which candidates for elected office keep their campaign promises holds great interest for citizens and has important consequences for the quality of democracy. However, we know very little about whether candidates actually keep these promises. This article examines the relationship between campaign promises and the subsequent legislative behavior of members of Congress in the area of environmental protection.

Methods. Responses to the 1996 National Political Awareness Test (NPAT) are matched with roll-call data on environmental issues from the 105th Congress. A series of bivariate probit models with selection are then used to assess the extent to which roll-call votes are consistent with candidate policy statements in the NPAT.

Results. We find that members of Congress vote consistent with their campaign promises 73 percent of the time, and that NPAT responses help to predict roll-call votes even when controlling for party, race, gender, campaign contributions, and previous environmental voting record. We also find that the propensity to keep campaign promises varies systematically across types of legislators.

Conclusions. Contrary to public perceptions, candidates for Congress routinely act to keep their campaign promises once elected, at least in the area of environmental protection policy.