AUTHORS' NOTE: We greatly appreciate thoughtful, helpful comments from Jon Bond, Brandice Canes-Wrone, Gary Cox, Richard Fleisher, Bernard Grofman, Mathew McCubbins, Anthony McGann, and an anonymous reviewer. We thank all of them. Also, UC Irvine and UCI's Center for the Study of Democracy generously supported this project.
Opportunism in Polarization: Presidential Success in Senate Key Votes, 1953-2008
Article first published online: 4 JUL 2011
© 2011 Center for the Study of the Presidency
Presidential Studies Quarterly
Volume 41, Issue 3, pages 488–503, September 2011
How to Cite
BECKMANN, M. N. and KUMAR, V. (2011), Opportunism in Polarization: Presidential Success in Senate Key Votes, 1953-2008. Presidential Studies Quarterly, 41: 488–503. doi: 10.1111/j.1741-5705.2011.03883.x
- Issue published online: 4 JUL 2011
- Article first published online: 4 JUL 2011
That Congress has experienced increased polarization is clear, and burgeoning is the literature investigating its causes and consequences. Here we examine a counterintuitive wrinkle on the latter. Drawing from a simple game-theoretic model in which a president strategically allocates scarce “political capital” to induce changes in legislators' votes, we show congressional polarization can actually improve a president's prospects for winning key roll-call votes—a hypothesis that emerges inasmuch as polarization enables presidents to concentrate their resources lobbying fewer members (compared to a more homogenous chamber). We test this hypothesis by investigating presidents' success on Congressional Quarterly's “key” Senate roll-call votes, 1953-2008.