Sequence and Equilibrium in Congressional Elections: An Integrated Approach

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26 Scopus citations


Elections for the House of Representatives derive some of their meaning from their sequence; how a party does in one election affects how well it will do in the next one. Yet, it is commonplace in the literature on congressional elections to bifurcate electoral results, to treat them separately as presidential or midterm elections, and thus lose much of the impact that sequence exhibits. In this article, we employ the “exposure thesis” to analyze House elections during two partisan eras: 1896–1928 and 1938–1988. We do this in two ways. First, we present the basic bifurcated models of presidential and midterm elections that scholars have often employed. These models provide strong support for the existence of presidential coattails in both partisan eras and for a midterm effect, which is supportive of the theory of “Surge and Decline,” in the most recent partisan era. An integrated analysis, allowing both sets of elections to be subject to the effects of sequence and both the disequilibration of administration performance, undercuts much of the evidence for both coattails and surge and decline theories in the present partisan era.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)372-393
Number of pages22
JournalJournal of Politics
Issue number2
StatePublished - May 1991

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sociology and Political Science


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