With Craig Volden

When party leaders seek support, who heeds the call and who remains unswayed? The canonical error-free spatial model of voting predicts the targeting of fence-sitting moderates. In contrast, we advance a random-utility-based model of party calls, wherein legislators who benefit the most from a common party position respond to the call of party leaders. This model predicts that extremists will heed the call of the party more than moderates, even upon controlling for baseline rates of voting with the party. To test this prediction, we develop a new method to identify “party-influenced votes,” to generate estimates of “party-free ideal points,” and to examine rates of responsiveness to political parties across members in the House of Representatives between 1973 and 2006. We find that, contrary to common portrayals of party influence, those most responsive to their parties are not the chamber moderates. Rather, responsiveness is greatest for ideological extremists in both the majority and minority parties, declining significantly among more moderate members. This finding sets the stage for new theoretical and empirical work on the role of parties in Congress.


Replicated in “Party Calls and Reelection in the U.S. Senate.”