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Below results based on the criteria 'congress'
Total number of records returned: 26

Modeling Direction and Intensity in Ordinal Scales with Midpoints
Jones, Bradford S.
Sobel, Michael E.

Uploaded 07-21-1998
Keywords adjacent category logit
log-linear models
public opinion
Abstract Political opinion analysts are frequently work with semantically balanced ordinal scales. Such survey items are frequently used to measure candidate evaluations, public spending preferences, positions on social issues, and candidate and party placement. Because of the special nature of these survey items (semantically balanced about a midpoint), researchers may be interested in understanding how both the response direction and response intensity varies over time and/or across covariate classes. That is, trends may be found in the tendency for respondents to choose categories above vs. below the midpoint (the response direction) and trends may be found in the tendency for respondents to choose between or among category labels above or below the midpoint. And while political analysts are commonly interested in response intensity and direction, traditional methods used to model distributions on semantically balanced ordinal scales are problematic. In this paper, we discuss a class of models originally developed by Sobel (1995, 1997, 1998) that allows researchers to simultaneously model direction and intensity in ordinal scales with midpoints. Specifically, we parameterize the model as an adjacent category logit model. Numerous parsimonious models may be arrived at that describe trends in the response direction and response intensity. Because the adjacent category logit model is linear in the logits, we estimate the model using log-linear models. We present an application of the models to data on approval ratings of House incumbents. We find that the trends in response directions (the tendency for respondents to evaluate the incumbent favorably or not favorably) increase through the 1980s, peaking in the late Eighties, and are now declining over the 1990s. With regard to response intensity, (that is, the tendency to respond in the extreme categories vs. the moderate categories), we find that intensity increases during most presidential election cycles and vanishes during midterm election years. We argue this finding is related to the different levels of political information citizens are exposed to in presidential vs. midterm election cycles.

Conservative Vote Probabilities: An Easier Method for the Analysis of Roll Call Data
Fowler, Anthony
Hall, Andrew B.

Uploaded 08-08-2012
Keywords Roll Call
Supreme Court
State Legislatures
Abstract We propose a new roll-call scaling method based on OLS which is easier to implement and understand than previous methods and also produces directly interpretable estimates. This measure, Conservative Vote Probability (CVP), indicates the probability that an individual legislator votes "conservatively" relative to the median legislator. CVP is a flexible non-parametric statistical technique that requires no complicated assumptions but still produces legislator scalings that correlate with previous roll call methods at extremely high levels. In this paper we introduce the methodology behind CVP and off er several substantive examples to demonstrate its e efficacy as an easier, more accessible alternative to previous roll call methods.

Electoral Reform and Legislative Structure: The Effects of Australian Ballot Laws on House Committee Tenure
Katz, Jonathan
Sala, Brian R.

Uploaded 01-01-1995
Keywords congress
personal vote
australian ballot
duration model
Abstract Most scholars agree that members of Congress are strongly motivated by their desire for reelection. This assumption implies that MCs adopt institutions, rules and norms of behavior in part to serve their electoral interests. Direct tests of the electoral connection are rare, however, because significant, exogenous changes in the electoral environment are difficult to identify. In this paper, we develop and test an electoral rationale for the norm of committee tenure, in which returning MCs typically retain their same assignments. We examine tenure patterns before and after a major, exogenous change in the electoral system -- the states' rapid adoption of Australian Ballot laws in the early 1890s. The ballot changes, we argue, induced new ``personal vote'' electoral incentives, which contributed to the adoption of ``modern'' Congressional institutions such as ``property rights'' to committee assignments. We demonstrate that there was a marked increase in assignment stability after 1892, when a majority of states had put the new ballot laws into force -- earlier than previous studies have suggested.

How Legislators Respond to Localized Economic Shocks
Feigenbaum, James
Hall, Andrew B.

Uploaded 01-26-2014
Keywords congress
roll-call voting
economic conditions
Abstract We explore the effects of localized economic shocks from trade on roll-call behavior and electoral outcomes in the U.S. House, 1990--2010. We demonstrate that economic shocks from Chinese import competition---first studied by Autor, Dorn, and Hanson (2013a)---cause legislators to vote in the more protectionist direction on trade bills but cause no change in their voting on all other bills. At the same time, these shocks have no effect on the reelection rates of incumbents, the probability an incumbent faces a primary challenge, or the partisan control of the district. Though changes in economic conditions are likely to cause electoral turnover in many cases, incumbents exposed to negative economic shocks from trade appear able to fend off these effects in equilibrium by taking strategic positions on foreign-trade bills. In line with this view, we find that the effect on roll-call voting is strongest in districts where incumbents are most threatened, electorally. Taken together, these results paint a picture of responsive incumbents who tailor their roll-call positions on trade bills to the economic conditions in their districts.

Competing Redistricting Plans as Evidence of Political Motives:The North Carolina Case
Gronke, Paul
Wilson, J. Matthew

Uploaded 00-00-0000
Keywords redistricting
Abstract Redistricting is a thoroughly political act, but the political strategies of the various actors have often been lost in legal and representational arguments. While not discounting the importance of these issues, this paper looks at one set of actors in redistricting --- state legislators --- and examines how they might pursue their own interests during redistricting. Using the 1992 redistricting in North Carolina as a preliminary case study, the paper presents a brief description of the redistricting process, describes the particular circumstances in the state, and presents some comparative analyses of eight redistricting plans. Our findings indicate that members sought to balance individual and partisan interests when proposing plans and that, at least sometimes, individual ambition outweighed partisan loyalty.

What Happens When Extremists Win Primaries?
Hall, Andrew B.

Uploaded 08-07-2014
Keywords rdd
regression discontinuity
Abstract This article studies the interplay of U.S. primary and general elections. I examine how the nomination of an extremist changes general-election outcomes and legislative behavior in the U.S. House, 1980–2010, using a regression discontinuity design in primary elections. When an extremist—as measured by primary-election campaign receipt patterns—wins a “coin-flip” election over a more moderate candidate, the party’s general-election vote share decreases by approximately 9–13 percentage points, and the probability that the party wins the seat de- creases by 35–54 percentage points. This electoral penalty is so large that nominating the more extreme primary candidate causes the district’s subsequent roll-call representation to reverse, becoming more liberal when an extreme Republican is nominated and more conservative when an extreme Democrat is nominated. Overall, the findings show how general-election voters act as a moderating filter in response to primary nominations.

Politicians and the Press: Who Leads, Who Follows?
Bartels, Larry M.

Uploaded 08-23-1996
Keywords media
Abstract his paper examines the interplay between politicians and the press in setting the national policy agenda. The data for the analysis consist of daily counts of executive branch activities, congressional activities, New York Times stories, local newspaper stories, and ABC News coverage of Bosnia, Medicare, NAFTA, and Whitewater during the first three years of the Clinton administration. Vector autoregressions suggest that all three media outlets (and the politicians themselves) followed the lead of the executive branch on Bosnia and NAFTA and of Congress on Medicare and Whitewater. However, New York Times coverage led political activities even more than it followed them, with especially strong agenda-setting effects for NAFTA and Whitewater. The independent agenda-setting power of ABC News was substantially less than that of the Times, but still considerable, while local newspapers tended, by and large, to follow the lead of politicians and the national news media. Prepared for presentation at the Annual Meeting of the American Political Science Association, San Francisco, September 1996.

Generic Tests for a Nonlinear Model of Congressional Campaign Dynamics
Mebane, Walter R.

Uploaded 08-25-1996
Keywords Congress
differential equations
Hopf bifurcation
non-nested hypothesis tests
Cox tests
nonlinear models
Abstract I develop a statistical model based on a generic third-order Taylor series approximation for differential equation systems that exhibit Hopf bifurcation in order to use district-level cross-sectional data to test a nonlinear dynamic formal model of campaign contributions, district service and voting during and after a U.S. House election. The statistical model represents the key nonlinearities of the formal model's Cournot-Nash equilibrium in a highly robust fashion. For data from the years 1984--85 and 1986--87, non-nested hypothesis tests (implemented using a calibrated, parametric bootstrap method) show that under assumptions of multivariate normality, the nonlinear model is vastly superior to the generic linear alternative defined by the sample mean vector and covariance matrix.

Generic Tests for a Nonlinear Model of Congressional Campaign Dynamics
Mebane, Walter R.

Uploaded 08-25-1996
Keywords Congress
differential equations
Hopf bifurcation
non-nested hypothesis tests
Cox tests
nonlinear models
Abstract I develop a statistical model based on a generic third-order Taylor series approximation for differential equation systems that exhibit Hopf bifurcation in order to use district-level cross-sectional data to test a nonlinear dynamic formal model of campaign contributions, district service and voting during and after a U.S. House election. The statistical model represents the key nonlinearities of the formal model's Cournot-Nash equilibrium in a highly robust fashion. For data from the years 1984--85 and 1986--87, non-nested hypothesis tests (implemented using a calibrated, parametric bootstrap method) show that under assumptions of multivariate normality, the nonlinear model is vastly superior to the generic linear alternative defined by the sample mean vector and covariance matrix.

Primary Election Systems and Policy Divergence
Morton, Becky
Gerber, Elisabeth R.
Fowler, James

Uploaded 10-03-1997
Keywords election laws
candidate nomination procedures
policy divergence
United States Congress
Abstract We examine how differences in the institutions that regulate candidate nomination procedures - specifically direct primary election laws -- affect elite control over candidate nominations and ultimately affect candidate policy divergence. We hypothesize that in more closed primary systems, control over candidate nominations by ideological extremists will translate into a higher likelihood that extreme candidates win in the general election. We hypothesize that in more open systems, participation by a wider spectrum of the electorate means that candidates must appeal to more moderate voters, leading to the election of more moderate candidates. Using pooled cross-section time-series regression analysis, we find that US Representatives from states with closed primaries take policy positions that are furthest from their districts' estimated median voter's ideal positions. Representatives from states with semi-closed primaries are the most moderate. We conclude that the opportunities for strategic behavior created by electoral institutions have important consequences for electoral outcomes.

Concordance, Projection, and Citizen Perceptions of Roll Call Voting
Wilson, J. Matthew
Gronke, Paul

Uploaded 08-21-1997
Keywords roll call votes
Abstract Democratic government is permised on some level of representation of constituent opionion by elected legislators. Our work examines this relationship from the perspective of the individual constituent. We assess the degree and causes of constituent knowledge about particular roll call votes. In the current work, we select a high profile domestic policy issue -- the 1994 Crime Bill -- as our focus. We show how that citizen misperception of their representative's position on this piece of legislation was rampant, with false positives (erroneously attributing support) far outweighing false negatives (erroneously attributing opposition). These descriptive results alone stand in constrast to previous findings regarding the 1991 Gulf War vote and the 1992 vote to confirm Clarence Thomas to the Supreme Court (Alvarez and Gronke, 1996a, 1996b). Next, in a series of causal models, we show how concordance and projection dominate citizen attributions for this particular bill. These processes may work to the benefit of incumbents, since people who are unable to recall a particular vote are most likely to project their own attitudes onto the representative.

Linking Representation and House Member Behavior to Constituents' Voting Behavior
Box-Steffensmeier, Janet M.
Kimball, David
Tate, Katherine

Uploaded 08-21-1997
Keywords representation
legislative activity
public approval
Abstract How one is represented should shape one's opinion about the incumbent's performance in office, one's opinion about Congress as an institution, and ultimately, one's underlying attitude toward democratic practices. In this paper, we develop and test a model in which voters evaluate members of Congress on the basis of their performance in office in addition to other factors. Adding contextual data to the 1994 National Election Study, we analyzed the effects of legislative activity, descriptive characteristics, legislative positions, and constituency variables on constituency recognition of the incumbent and vote choice. We found that the activities of legislators, such as speech making and bill sponsorship, committees membership, and campaign spending, have a significant impact on the attitudes of constituents toward their representatives. We also found party affiliation of House members as well as their gender and race to be important cues that influence their constituents' evaluations. Our research identifies the type of legislative activities that benefit House members the most politically. It also establishes that while voters continue to rely on informational short cuts, such as party membership, gender, and information gathered through campaigns, they also appear responsive to the representative's legislative behavior. Overall, active legislators have more knowledgeable, satisfied, and loyal constituents.

Congress and the Environment: A Longitudinal Analysis
Shipan, Charles R.
Lowry, William R.

Uploaded 08-01-1997
Keywords Congress
interest group ratings
Abstract ach year since 1970 the League of Conservation Voters has identified a series of key votes on public health, energy, wilderness, and other environmental issues and used these votes to calculate "ratings" for members of Congress. While these ratings are useful for comparing the level of environmental support by members within a given year and a given chamber, they are less useful for making cross-chamber or longitudinal comparisons, as they are based on different votes and thus computed on a different scale in each year and in each chamber. In this paper we make use of an innovative new methodological approach developed by Groseclose, Levitt, and Snyder (1997) to adjust these scores in a way that allows for interchamber and intertemporal comparisons. We then use these adjusted scores to examine patterns in congressional voting on environmental issues. In addition to presenting these trends, we propose and evaluate some explanations for the most striking trend: the finding that the parties have diverged on environmental issues over the past twenty-five years.

Bridging Institutions and Time: Creating Comparable Preference Estimates for Presidents, Senators, Representatives and Justices, 1950-2002
Bailey, Michael

Uploaded 07-19-2005
Keywords ideal point estimation
Supreme Court
Abstract Difficulty in comparing preferences across time and institutional contexts hinders the empirical testing of many important theories in political science. In this paper, I characterize these difficulties and provide a measurement approach that relies on inter-temporal and inter-institutional ``bridge'' observations and Bayesian Markov chain simulation methods. I generate preference estimates for Presidents, Senators, Representatives and Supreme Court Justices that are comparable across time and across institutions. Such preference estimates are indispensable in a variety of important research projects, including research on statutory interpretation, executive influence on the Supreme Court and Senate influence on court appointments.

Connecting Interest Groups and Congress: A New Approach to Understanding Interest Group Success
Victor, Jennifer Nicoll

Uploaded 07-16-2002
Keywords Interest Groups
Multiple Imputation
Bayesian Information Criterion
Ordinal Probit
Non-nested Models
Legislative Context
Abstract The primary challenge in explaining interest group legislative success in Congress has been methodological. The discipline requires at least two critical elements to make progress on this important question. First, we need a theory that accounts for the highly interactive spatial game between interest groups and legislators. Second, the discipline needs an empirical model that associates interest groups and their activities with specific congressional bills. In this project I begin to contribute to our understanding of the complex relationship between interest groups and Congress. I develop a theory of group success that is based upon the strategies in which groups engage, the groups' organizational capacity, and the strategic context of legislation. I predict that groups will tailor their activities (and strategically spend their resources) in Congress based upon two critical factors: whether the group supports or opposes the legislation, and the legislative environment for the bill. To test this model I develop a unique sampling procedure and survey design. I use legislative hearings to generate a sample of groups that are associated with specific issues and survey them about their activities on those issues. Then, I associate each group's issue with a specific bill in Congress. I then track the bill to discern its final status. I create a dependent variable of interest group success that is based on the group's position (favor or oppose) and the final status of the bill. This sampling procedure and dependent variable allow me to make inferences about group behavior over specific legislative proposals. I develop independent variables of group activity, group organizational capacity, and legislative context from the survey instrument and objective information about the bills. To fill in gaps in the survey data set, I use a multiple imputation method that generates plausible values based on given distributions of data. I estimate two models-one for groups in favor of legislation, and one for opposition groups. The ordinal probit models generally support the theoretical expectations. In sum, I find that groups can best expend their resources in pursuit of rules that advantage their position rather than fighting for bill content.

Verifying Evidence of "Congressional Enactments of Race-Gender"
Grant, J. Tobin

Uploaded 02-05-2007
Keywords replication
interpretive methodology
qualitative methods
Abstract I report the results of a verification of Hawkesworth's 2003 "Congressional Enactments of Race-Gender" (CERG). This is a landmark analysis of race and gender in the U.S. Congress that is noteworthy for both its theory and its empirical evidence. A deeper look at the evidence and the context raises fundamental questions about the empirical validity of CERG's theory of race-gender in Congress. I conclude that racing-gendering in Congress is more nuanced than originally presented in CERG, and that further research is necessary to demonstrate empirically CERG's theory of Congress as a raced-gendered institution. This verification has important methodology implications, as it demonstrates why verification of empirical research -- including interpretive research -- should be a widely-practiced methodology within political science.

The Fruit of Jefferson's Dinner Party: Roll Call Analysis of the Compromise of 1790 with Substantive and Relational Constraints
Clinton, Joshua
Meirowitz, Adam

Uploaded 07-12-2002
Keywords ideal point estimation
log roll
First Congress
agenda estimation
Abstract The "Compromise of 1790" -- in which legislative gridlock in the First House (1789-1791) was supposedly resolved by a deal in which Southern states conceded to the assumption of states' Revolutionary War debt by the federal government in exchange for locating the permanent Capitol along the Potomac -- is one of the earliest and most colorful examples of log rolls in American politics. However, historians disagree on the validity or completeness of this story and this account is only directly supported by an account from Jefferson. We assess the extent to which the voting record actually supports the hypothesis that a compromise was reached sometime in mid June. Using substantive information about the roll call votes and relational information about the agenda to specify a model in which bill locations are identified we implement a Bayesian analysis (using MCMC methods). Our results do not support the traditional account of the compromise. In resolving the capital question legislators did not anticipate that assumption would carry. We also find that the final outcome was quite centrist and legislator ideal points are better explained by sectional, as opposed to ideological, theories.

The playing field shifts: predicting the seats-votes curve in the 2008 U.S. House election
Kastellec, Jonathan
Gelman, Andrew
Chandler, Jamie

Uploaded 06-01-2008
Keywords Congress
partisan bias
seats-votes curve
Abstract This paper predicts the seats-votes curve for the 2008 U.S House elections. We document how the electoral playing field has shifted from a Republican advantage between 1996 and 2004 to a Democratic tilt today. Due to the shift in incumbency advantage from the Republicans to the Democrats, compounded by a greater number of retirements among Republican members, we show that the Democrats now enjoy a partisan bias, and can expect to win more seats than votes for the first time since 1992. While this bias is not as large as the advantage the Republicans held in 2006, it is likely to help the Democrats win more seats than votes and thus expand their majority.

Stochastic Dependence in Competing Risks
Gordon, Sanford C.

Uploaded 09-05-2001
Keywords Competing risks
duration models
survival models
event history
random effects
frailty models
unobserved heterogeneity
Monte Carlo simulation
legislative position-taking
cabinet survival
numeric integration
Markov Chain Monte Carlo
Abstract The term "Competing Risks" describes duration models in which spells may terminate via multiple outcomes: The term of a cabinet, for example, may end with or without an election; wars persist until the loss or victory of the aggressor. Analysts typically assume stochastic independence among risks, the duration modeling equivalent of independence of irrelevant alternatives. However, many political examples violate this assumption. I review competing risks as a latent variables approach. After discussing methods for modeling dependence that place restrictions on the nature of association, I introduce a parametric generalized dependent risks model in which inter-risk correlation may be estimated and its significance tested. The method employs risk-specific random effects drawn from a multivariate normal distribution. Estimation is conducted using numerical methods and/or Bayesian simulation. Monte Carlo simulation reveals desirable large sample properties of the estimator. Finally, I examine two applications using data on cabinet survival and legislative position taking.

Using Item Response Theory to Estimate Ideology in Congress
Kropko, Jonathan

Uploaded 06-28-2008
Keywords Item Response Theory
Abstract I use item response theory (IRT) to estimate latent ideology from selected roll-call votes in the first session of the 110th House of Representatives. Votes are selected if they are divisive, unique, but not wholly explained by party loyalties. The method is similar to the one employed by Clinton et al (2004), but does not assume a spatial structure of voting. The results demonstrate that (1) although Democrats hold a majority of the seats in the 110th House, a majority of the members have conservative ideologies, (2) the Republican party leadership is much more conservative than the Democratic party leadership is liberal, and (3) that the House is far less ideologically polarized than DW-Nominate scores would indicate.

Signals, Models, and Congressional Overrides of the Supreme Court
Zorn, Christopher
Hettinger, Virginia

Uploaded 04-05-1999
Keywords event history models
split-population duration models
Supreme Court
statutory decisions
Abstract Sparked by interest in game-theoretic representations of the separation of powers, empirical work examining congressional overrides of Supreme Court statutory decisions has burgeoned in recent years. Much of this work has been hampered, however, by the relative rarity of such events; as has long been noted, congressional attention to the Court is limited, and most Court decisions represent the last word on statutory interpretation. With this fact foremost in our minds, we examine empirically a number of theories regarding such reversals. We apply a split-population duration model to the survival of Supreme Court statutory interpretation decisions. This approach allows us to separate the factors which lead to the event itself (i.e., the presence or absence of an override in a particular case) from those which influence the timing of the event. We find that case-specific factors relating to the salience of a case are an important influence in the incidence of overrides, while Congress- and Court-specific political influences dominate the timing at which those overrides occur. By separating the incidence and timing of overrides, our results yield a more accurate and nuanced understanding of this aspect of the separation of powers system.

Congressional Careers, Committee Assignments, and Seniority Randomization in the U.S. House of Representatives
Kellermann, Michael
Shepsle, Kenneth

Uploaded 02-01-2008
Keywords Congress
Abstract This paper estimates the effects of initial committee seniority on the career ooetcomes of Democratic members of the Hooese of Representatives from 1949 to 2006. When more than one freshman representative is assigned to a committee, positions in the seniority qoeeoee are established by lottery. This ensoeres that qoeeoee positions are oencorrelated in expectation with other legislator characteristics within these grooeps. This natoeral experiment allows oes to estimate the caoesal effect of seniority on a variety of ooetcomes. Lower ranked committee members are less likely to serve as soebcommittee chairs on their initial committee, are more likely to transfer to other committees, and have fewer sponsored bills passed in the joerisdiction of their initial committee. On the other hand, there is little evidence that the seniority randomization has a net effect on reelection, terms of service in the Hooese, or the total noember of sponsored bills passed.

Follow the Leader? Presidential Approval, Perceived Presidential Support, and Representatives'Electoral Fortunes'
Gronke, Paul
Koch, Jeffery
Wilson, J. Matthew

Uploaded 04-17-1998
Keywords congress
presidential approval
negative voting
Abstract The relationship between presidential approval and congressional incumbent electoral success has been long established. Surprisingly, the individual level dynamics of this process have been largely unexamined. Drawing on a new set of questions included in the 1993, 1994, and 1996 National Election Studies, we explore the degree to which citizen perceptions of member support for Clinton's legislative program mediate the impact of presidential approval on evaluations and choice. We find that the degree to which individuals thought their members supported the President's legislative program functions just as we hypothesize, enhancing or ameliorating the impact of presidential approval on affective attachments to the member, evaluation of the incumbent's job performance, and congressional vote choice.

Cosponsorship in the U.S. Senate: A Multilevel Approach to Detecting Subtle Social Predictors of Legilslative Support
Gross, Justin

Uploaded 09-14-2008
Keywords Congress
social network analysis
multilevel models
mixed effects
Abstract Why do members of Congress choose to cosponsor legislation proposed by their colleagues and what can we learn from their patterns of cosponsorship? To answer these questions properly requires models that respect the relational nature of the relevant data and the resulting interdependence among observations. We show how the inclusion of carefully selected random effects can capture network-type dependence, allowing us to more confidently investigate senators' propensity to support colleagues' proposals. To illustrate, we examine whether certain social factors such as demographic similarities, opportunities for interaction, and institutional roles are associated with varying odds of cosponsorship during the 2003-04 (108th) Senate.

Temporal Convolutional Neural Networks for Legislative Text
Peterson, Andrew

Uploaded 07-22-2015
Keywords deep learning
text analysis
feature learning
representation learning
neural networks
Abstract What ideological differences characterize right- versus left-oriented Congressional legislation? Existing text analysis has demonstrated the utility of algorithms in classifying political texts by topic and partisan ideology. The ability of these approaches to make use of the full meaning of texts, however, is limited by the bag-of-words approach that discards syntactical relationships (beyond n-grams). I present an alternative approach that makes use of temporal convolutional neural networks (CNN, Zhang & LeCun 2015) that build from character-level data to successively higher-level features. I apply the approach to identifying the ideology of legislative texts as measured by DW-NOMINATE midpoints. I find that CNN outperforms naive Bayes and support vector classifiers using the bag-of-words approach. This suggests that deep networks may provide more effective identification of ideological content of legislation.

Policy Uncertainty and the 2008-2009 Financial Crisis
Shaffer, Robert

Uploaded 07-22-2015
Keywords uncertainty
topic models
information search
Abstract How do policymakers respond to crisis events? When faced with a new topic or unfamiliar set of challenges, standard “party lines” and policy tools may not fit the current situation. As a result, political elites will be (temporarily) forced to focus on a more diverse set of topics, reducing within-party cohesiveness and broadening the policy conversation. These kinds of effects should be particularly strong during major events, such as the 2007-2008 financial crisis. In these situations, we should be able to observe spikes in topical diversity and average within-party distance as the crisis develops, which level off and decline as the crisis dissipates. To test these hypotheses, we gather text transcripts for all Congressional hearings currently posted on the Government Publishing Office's Website (some 19,000 hearings as of early 2015). Next, we segment these transcripts by speaker and match speakers to individual-level metadata using a set of custom Python tools. We then treat individual statements as documents and train a standard LDA model on the corpus. Using the word assignment vectors produced by these models as features, we measure individual-level diversity (using informational entropy). Generally, we find that topical diversity increases in response to the financial crisis, followed by a slow decline as the crisis dissipates.

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