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The Forum

A Journal of Applied Research in Contemporary Politics

Ed. by Disalvo, Daniel / Stonecash, Jeffrey

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Volume 9, Issue 2 (Jul 2011)


Going off the Rails on a Crazy Train: The Causes and Consequences of Congressional Infamy

Justin Buchler
  • Case Western Reserve University
Published Online: 2011-07-13 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.2202/1540-8884.1434

Legislators like Michele Bachmann and Alan Grayson become nationally infamous for their provocative behavior, yet there is little scholarly attention to such infamy. This paper examines the predictors of congressional infamy, along with its electoral consequences. First, infamy is measured through the frequency with which internet users conduct searches of legislators’ names, paired with epithets attacking their intelligence or sanity. Then, ideological extremism and party leadership positions are shown to be the best statistical predictors. The electoral consequences of infamy follow: infamous legislators raise more money than their lower-profile colleagues, but their infamy also helps their challengers to raise money. In the case of House Republicans, there appears to be an additional and direct negative effect of infamy on vote shares. The fundraising effect is larger in Senate elections, but there is no evidence of direct electoral cost for infamous senatorial candidates.

Keywords: Congress; Elections; polarizing; internet

About the article

Published Online: 2011-07-13

Citation Information: The Forum, ISSN (Online) 1540-8884, DOI: https://doi.org/10.2202/1540-8884.1434. Export Citation

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