The authors thank Gary W. Cox, Jonathan Katz, Georgia Kernell, and anonymous referees for helpful comments. This research was generously supported by a National Science Foundation grant to Kernell (SES-0136260).
Manufactured Responsiveness: The Impact of State Electoral Laws on Unified Party Control of the Presidency and House of Representatives, 1840–1940
Article first published online: 18 MAY 2005
American Journal of Political Science
Volume 49, Issue 3, pages 531–549, July 2005
How to Cite
Engstrom, E. J. and Kernell, S. (2005), Manufactured Responsiveness: The Impact of State Electoral Laws on Unified Party Control of the Presidency and House of Representatives, 1840–1940. American Journal of Political Science, 49: 531–549. doi: 10.1111/j.1540-5907.2005.00140.x
- Issue published online: 18 MAY 2005
- Article first published online: 18 MAY 2005
The modern history of divided government in America suggests that the framers succeeded in creating a government unresponsive to popular passions. Yet in the nineteenth century the party winning the presidency almost always captured control of the House of Representatives. Why and how could nineteenth century national elections be so responsive that they resemble parliamentary outcomes? We identify electoral institutions present in the states that directly linked congressional elections to presidential coattails. Specifically, we estimate the impact of state ballot laws and the strategic design of congressional districts on presidential coattail voting from 1840 to 1940. We find that presidential elections, as mediated by state electoral laws, strongly account for unified party control of the House and the presidency throughout the nineteenth century.