Abstract

While elections can discipline elected politicians, the power of electoral accountability varies depending on the characteristics of each politician and on the state of the electoral race. To quantify this relationship we use data on US senators who ran for office between 2000-2012 to structurally estimate a (dynamic) model of the problem of an incumbent politician running for reelection. % In the model, senators who have idiosyncratic policy and office motivations choose strategically their policy position and TV-ads each period after observing their advantage in the polls. Their choices in turn influence voter support in the next period. We quantify the value that each senator gives to office relative to ideology, and provide ideal point estimates that incorporate strategic position-taking. We also provide individual and aggregate measures of electoral accountability as a function of the competitiveness of the election, and evaluate how advertising affects electoral accountability.

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