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Don’t Make Me Do It: Bipartisanship and the Importance of Volunteerism in Legislative Networks in Congress

 

From: Monday, February 24, 2020, 04:00pm

To: Monday, February 24, 2020, 06:00pm

Don’t Make Me Do It: Bipartisanship and the Importance of Volunteerism in Legislative Networks in Congress

Does connectivity through legislative networks increase the likelihood of reaching bipartisan agreements in Congress? While the contact hypothesis suggests connectivity may reduce prejudice toward out-group members, legislators face strategic incentives to associate with political adversaries. To discern the effect of legislative connectivity on bipartisan agreement, I advance the theory that legislators who voluntarily connect to political opponents will have greater likelihood of agreement than those who are coerced to connect, in part because volunteerism signals a willingness to forge bipartisan relationships. Competing hypotheses are tested on a large dataset of congressional activity and relationships covering the period 1993-2016. Results show a small, positive effect of voluntary connectivity and negative effect of involuntary connectivity on bipartisanship, with heterogeneity across policy areas. The normative implications of the findings suggest forced bipartisanship may backfire, but opportunities for voluntary cross-partisan interactions may moderately increase the frequency of bipartisan agreement.

 

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