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Representation in Congressional Campaigns: Evidence for Discounting/Directional Voting in U.S. Senate Elections


James Adams is associate professor of political science, University of California, Santa Barbara, CA 93106-9420 (

Benjamin G. Bishin is assistant professor of political science, University of Miami, 314 Jenkins Building, Coral Gables, FL 33124-6534 (

Jay K. Dow is associate professor of political science, University of Missouri, Columbia, MO 65211 (


Several recent studies suggest that voters may prefer candidates who propose policies that are similar to, but more extreme than, the voters’ sincere policy preferences. This may arise either because voters vote directionally based on the direction and intensity of candidates’ proposals or, alternatively, because voters recognize that elected officials face obstacles to implementing their policy agenda and therefore discount the candidates’ policy promises. Using data from the Pooled Senate Election Study, we evaluate the discounting/directional hypothesis versus the alternative proximity hypothesis, by conducting individual-level and aggregate-level analyses of voting in 95 Senate races held in 1988–90–92. Our results support the discounting/directional hypothesis, that voters reward candidates when they present distinctly noncentrist positions on the side of the issue (liberal or conservative) favored by their constituency. These findings have important implications for understanding voting behavior, policy representation, and candidate strategies in Senate elections.