Going rogue: Roll call voting, discretionary dissent and incumbent manipulation of media messages in the U.S. House of Representatives
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This research addresses the importance of the electoral connection in relation to representation with particular reference to how members of Congress have strategic incentives to engage in policy ambiguity. Using an original dataset, incorporating both roll-call votes and issue positions taken in press releases (i.e. discretionary actions), I examine how members of the US House of Representatives sought to disseminate their position on the Iraq war from the authorization vote in 2003 until the week preceding the midterm elections of 2006 during which all House incumbents were faced with public judgment. Results reveal that members of the House are significantly more likely to strategically manipulate their issue positions on the Iraq war to compensate for their roll call positions when they come from competitive districts. Merging this to public opinion data from the 2006 CCES, I find that discretionary behavior helps incumbents shore up their reelection prospects. In sum, this paper argues that evidence should and does exist that incumbents represent different, constituency driven, interests when voicing opinions in tailored media messages than when engaged in roll-call voting in Congress, and that engaging in this behavior is electorally advantageous.