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Aldrich and Battista: Conditional party government in the states

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State Politics

Aldrich and Battista. 2000. Conditional party government in the states. American Journal of Political Science 46: 235-56.


Takes a lot of work on Congress and applies it to the states. Shows three things:

  1. That there is variation in the levels of polarization in the states using Poole-Rosenthal scores;
  2. That competitiveness in elections (reciprocal of the Herfindahl index) is related to polarization, with polarization occurring when parties are balanced;
  3. That competitiveness of elections relates positively to representativeness of committees.

Competitiveness of elections --> Polarization in legislatures --> Representativeness of committees


  • Medium N-ish and this is in the 'treats all states as equal' camp
  • Uni-dimensional NOMINATE scores from the first 100-175 votes of the legislative session in 11 states determine legislator preference points. They explain away using one dimension vs. two dimensions for preferences points in footnote 1, their non-random choice of states and why they only use the first 100-175 all seems plausible.
  • They concede that looking at more states over time would be nice to see, and looking at GAVEL in Colorado would be an interesting project.
  • p. 167 is their chart of polarization in a selection of chambers...pretty neat and quite telling.


For the committees section, which they claim is an assault on the Cox-McCubbins Legislative Leviathan argument, I have some questions:

  1. They go on about the differences in informational and distributive committees, and polarized competitive legislatures ought to have more of the former. They don't actually test for this do they? Since the 6 types committees they look at aren't all clearly informational...or are they?
  2. Also by lumping both polarized and non-polarized chambers into the regression (p. 170) don't they lose a real chance to expose substantive differences between the two different types of chambers?
  3. Not entirely sure I understand the specifics of using simulations to determine p-values of the preference points of the committees.
  4. They claim (171) that this is bad for Cox-McCubbins, but in order for that to be correct wouldn't the method of choosing legislators matter? If it's not the party caucus or each party's leadership who determines their own members on committees why would the cartel model be subject to this test? Not mention shouldn't the requirements of who chooses whom to serve on these committees have to be constant across states?