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Obstruction, opposition, and partisan conflict : implications of minority party electoral incentives for the House of Representatives

Egar, William T., dissertant

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  • Creator by William T. Egar
  • Format Books
  • Publication Ann Arbor, MI : ProQuest LLC, 2015.
  • Physical Details
    • vii, 123 leaves : illustrations (some color) ; 29 cm
  • OCLC ocn942791689


  • Existing research on political parties in Congress focuses almost exclusively on the majority party. I argue that this inattention to the minority party hampers our understanding of Congress, particularly with regard to the sources of partisan conflict in the House of Representatives. In the series of essays that follow, I show that patterns of legislative obstruction, requests for roll-call votes, and party voting are affected by minority party electoral incentives. The minority's electoral incentive to oppose the majority party, to obstruct majority-party initiatives, to place vulnerable members of the opposing party on the record on difficult votes, among other things, makes the minority party a significant source of partisan conflict in the House. Results from this project suggest that understanding variation in the likelihood that the minority party will retake majority control of the chamber can help explain patterns in obstruction and conflict over time. Minority parties in the nineneenth century that expected favorable election results were more likely to engage in obstructionist efforts; minority parties expecting electoral success in the contemporary House are more likely to vote with their party and place themselves on the losing side of roll-call votes. Results also suggest that the roll-call record, on which measures of legislator ideology and partisan voting behavior are based, is itself partially a product of strategic manipulation by the minority party. Minority party roll-call requesting behavior has the effect of making the House appear more partisan and more ideologically polarized, and making electorally vulnerable members of the majority party appear more partisan and ideological. Implications of these results suggest that, while competitive elections are typically considered to be desirable, competitive party systems provide incentives for partisanship, obstruction, and conflict - the type of legislative behavior that Americans profess to dislike about Congress.


  • Advisor: David T. Canon.
  • Ph.D. University of Wisconsin--Madison 2015.
  • Includes bibliographical references (leaves 110-123).