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Testing models of distributive politics using exit polls to measure voter preferences and partisanship

Suntory and Toyota International Centres for Economics and Related Disciplines, London School of Economics and Political Science
Publication Date
  • Hc Economic History And Conditions
  • Jk Political Institutions (United States)
  • Hj Public Finance
  • Political Science


This paper tests various hypotheses about distributive politics by studying the distribution of federal spending across U.S. states over the period 1978-2002. We improve on previous work by using survey data to measure the share of voters in each state that are Democrats, Republicans, and independents, or liberals, conservatives and moderates. We find no evidence for the “swing voter" hypothesis { that is, no significant association between the amount of federal funds a state receives and the fraction of independents or moderates in the state. We also find no evidence for the “battleground state" hypothesis - no significant association between the amount of federal funds and the degree of partisan balance in a state. Modest support is found for the \partisan supporters" hypothesis, which conjectures that politicians will favour areas that contain a large percentage of their core supporters.

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