Political Science Now

The 2011 Debt Ceiling Controversy and the 2012 US House Elections

Can incumbent members of Congress benefit electorally from floor votes that can directly harm the economy? In one prominent case, the answer was yes. This article considers how a key legislative vote–the August 2011 vote to raise the federal debt ceiling–influenced the 2012 elections for the US House of Representatives. Two outcomes are analyzed: incumbents’ ability to retain their seats through the 2012 general election, and their share of the two-party vote for members who faced a general election competitor. In developing this study, the research design was publicly registered and released before votes were counted in 2012, so this article also serves to illustrate how study preregistration can work in practice for political science. The findings show that seat retention did not vary with the treatment, but incumbents who voted against raising the debt ceiling earned an additional 2.4 percentage points of the two-party vote.

The 2011 Debt Ceiling Controversy and the 2012 US House Elections by James E. Monogan, III as appears in PS: Political Science & Politics / Volume 48 / Issue 03  / July 2015, pp 420 – 424