Contextual Effects of Redistricting on Old and New Voters: Sometimes Newcomer Ignorance Can Mean Electoral Bliss for the Incumbent

  • Richard Born Vassar College


            Research directed at the effects of congressional redistricting on individual voters mainly has centered on transplanted constituents’ lesser tendency relative to that of retained constituents to back the incumbent. Differences in the impacts that district-level (i.e., contextual) factors have on the two types of voters, however, have been slighted. In this study, we find that campaign spending affects transplanted and retained voters commensurately, but that the effects of district partisan homogeneity in raising the odds of a pro-incumbent vote and of member ideological extremity in decreasing these odds are only exerted on retained constituents. The explanation seems to be that information conveyed by candidate spending, which only emerges over the duration of the campaign, is equally accessible to new and old constituents alike, whereas old constituents have had longer opportunity to process information about district partisanship and incumbent ideology. From the reelection perspective of incumbents who represent districts with unfriendly partisanship or who have extreme ideology, the non-responsiveness of new constituents to these latter two contextual factors is therefore an electoral asset, implying that such members, contrary to the congressional norm, should favor large-scale transfusions of new constituents at redistricting time.

Author Biography

Richard Born, Vassar College
Professor of Political Science


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