Justin Grimmer, Solomon Messing and Sean Westwood have an interesting paper that shows that voters give similar credit for members of Congress who (1) intend to request funds, (2) request funds, and (3) secure funds. The idea is that members can use a complex budgetary process to create the impression that they are influential, which is hard for voters to verify. There are also issues with magnitudes and innumeracy – constituents don’t give members of Congress much more credit for securing large grants versus small ones.
Abstract: Particularistic spending, a large literature argues, builds support for incumbents. This literature equates money spent in the district with the credit constituents allocate. Yet, constituents lack the necessary information and motivation to allocate credit in this way. We use extensive observational and experimental evidence to show how legislators’ credit claiming messages—and not just money spent in the district—affect how constituents allocate credit. Legislators use credit claiming messages to influence the expenditures they receive credit for and to affect how closely they are associated with spending in the district. Constituents are responsive to credit claiming messages—they build more support than other nonpartisan messages. But contrary to expectations from other studies, constituents are more responsive to the total number of messages sent rather than the amount claimed. Our results have broad implications for political representation, the personal vote, and the study of U.S. Congressional elections.
HT: Kyle Dropp