Journal of Political Institutions and Political Economy > Vol 4 > Issue 4

The Electoral Costs of Legislative Action: Dynamic Partisanship and Agenda Control in the U.S. Congress

Carlos Algara, Department of Politics & Government, Claremont Graduate University, USA, , Josh M. Ryan, Department of Political Science, Utah State University, USA,
Suggested Citation
Carlos Algara and Josh M. Ryan (2024), "The Electoral Costs of Legislative Action: Dynamic Partisanship and Agenda Control in the U.S. Congress", Journal of Political Institutions and Political Economy: Vol. 4: No. 4, pp 577-615.

Publication Date: 21 Feb 2024
© 2024 C. Algara and J. M. Ryan
Bipartisanshipcongressional agenda settingcongressional approvalparty governmentlegislatures


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In this article:
Agenda Access and Partisanship in the House 
Public Preferences on Partisanship 
Dynamic Agenda Control and Bipartisanship 
Empirical Expectations for Bipartisanship and Congressional Approval 
Empirical Expectations for Majority Party Electoral Strength and Bipartisanship 
Sample Selection and Time Aggregation 
Measuring Electoral Strength 
Estimation Strategy 
Testing Propositions: Bipartisanship & Congressional Approval in the U.S. House 
Additive Results: Majority Party Electoral Support & Dynamic Agenda Control 
Conditional Results: Does Voter Information Condition Bipartisanship? 
Robustness Checks: Evidence for Bipartisanship Without Moderation 


Members and congressional parties go to great lengths to signal bipartisanship to voters, believing they will be electorally rewarded for cooperating with the other party. However, the House majority party also has an incentive to enact its preferred, party-oriented policy program and obtaining minority party support requires legislative compromise. We theorize that electorally strong majority parties are relatively unconcerned about their public support, and are thus more willing to pass partisan bills. When the majority party’s public support is tenuous, it moderates bills to receive minority support and reap electoral benefits from bipartisanship. Using time-series data of public opinion polling and measures of bipartisanship in Congress, we find support for this claim. We also find that salient bills increase the strength of the relationship between majority party electoral standing and bill extremity. Finally, our results demonstrate the extent to which the majority party is electorally risk averse; proximity to an election does not change the relationship between electoral standing and bipartisanship on passage. Our results speak to the ability of the majority party to set the level of bipartisanship within the House and the inherent trade-off between dramatic policy change and public support.



Journal of Political Institutions and Political Economy, Volume 4, Issue 4 Special Issue - Legislative Leviathan
See the other articles that are part of this special issue.