Date of Award

2001

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

Political Science

First Advisor

James C. Garand

Abstract

The focus of this dissertation is campaign spending in congressional elections. I examine the benefits that candidates receive from campaign expenditures. I think that challengers receive greater benefits from spending than incumbents, but that the extent of these benefits depends on the type of challenger. High-quality challengers are those that have previous experience in an important elective office, while low-quality challengers lack this experience. Because of this experience, high-quality challengers enjoy a higher level of recognition among the electorate than low-quality challengers. I think that the benefits that challengers receive from expenditures are inversely related to the level of recognition that voters have of these challengers, so that low-quality challengers should receive greater benefits from spending than high-quality challengers. I call this the voter recognition theory. The voter recognition theory applies equally well to elections for the House and Senate. Incumbents from both chambers maintain high levels of recognition among the electorate, so the difference in spending benefits between incumbents and challengers is determined by the quality of challengers. The Senate is the more prestigious of the two chambers. Consequently, I think that Senate elections attract more high-quality challengers than House elections. Low-quality challengers should receive much higher benefits than incumbents, while high-quality challengers should receive benefits that are roughly equal to incumbents. Thus, I think that the difference in spending benefits between incumbents and challengers is smaller in Senate elections than in House elections. In order to test these assumptions, I collect data for House and Senate elections from 1974 to 1994. Besides the main variables of interest---candidate spending and challenger political quality---I examine other relevant variables, such as parry identification, incumbent controversy, challenger celebrity, and state unemployment level. My analysis of these variables includes descriptive statistics and multiple regression. Virtually all of the results support my key assumptions. The difference in spending benefits between incumbents and challengers is smaller in Senate elections because these elections have more high-quality challengers. Several interesting areas are available for future research, and the voter recognition theory provides a valid framework within which to conduct this research.

ISBN

9780493563176

Pages

163

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