In 2016, Tausanovitch and Warshaw performed an analysis “using the largest dataset to date of voting behavior in congressional elections” and found:
Ideological positions of congressional candidates have only a small association with citizens’ voting behavior. Instead, citizens cast their votes “as if” based on proximity to parties rather than individual candidates. The modest degree of candidate-centered spatial voting in recent Congressional elections may help explain the polarization and lack of responsiveness in the contemporary Congress.
Then in 2018, Andrew Hall and Daniel Thompson wrote:
Combining a regression discontinuity design in close primary races with survey and administrative data on individual voter turnout, we find that extremist nominees—as measured by the mix of campaign contributions they receive—suffer electorally, largely because they decrease their party’s share of turnout in the general election, skewing the electorate towards their opponent’s party. The results help show how the behavioral and institutional literatures can be connected. For our sample of elections, turnout appears to be the dominant force in determining election outcomes, but it advantages ideologically moderate candidates because extremists appear to activate the opposing party’s base more than their own.
Sean McElwee brought those two papers to my attention (along with this) and asked how they can be reconciled. McElwee writes:
Voters, who can’t distinguish ideology decided whether or not to vote in generals based on the extremism of their opponent (measured in a way that may or may not actually reflect an extreme voting record).
Seems like there must be another mechanism for the Hall and Thompson data?
My reply: I’m not actually up on this literature. Can I blog this and we can see what comments show up?
And so I did, and here you are. I haven’t thought much on these issues since writing that paper, Moderation in the pursuit of moderation is no vice: The clear but limited advantages to being a moderate for Congressional elections, with Jonathan Katz, over ten years ago.