THE LAST OF THE NORTHEAST REPUBLICANS: AN INDIVIDUAL DISTRICT ANALYSIS OF HOW CHANGING PARTY IDEOLOGY CAN PUSH VOTERS AWAY

Open Access
Author:
Johnston, Jordan Elizabeth
Area of Honors:
Political Science
Degree:
Bachelor of Arts
Document Type:
Thesis
Thesis Supervisors:
  • Dr. Suzanne Chod, Thesis Supervisor
  • Dr. Gretchen G Casper, Honors Advisor
Keywords:
  • Republican Party
  • Northeast
  • ideology
  • conservative Republicans
  • moderate Republicans
  • congressional district
Abstract:
The Northeast has been a Democratic stronghold over the past sixty years, yet it is also a region that has many ideologically moderate Republicans who have traditionally voted for more moderate Republican Congressional representatives. Despite the region’s Democratic trend there are a few congressional districts that remained solidly Republican into the 1990s and 2000s. However, even these Republican incumbents eventually lost their seats to the Democratic Party. I examine those four districts specifically and ask whether or not a recent increase of conservatism in the Republican Party contributed to these once solid, moderate Republican districts finally becoming Democratic. I hypothesize that the Republican conservative shift did not please some of the more moderate constituents of these districts who in turn voted their Republican representatives out of office. I use ticket-splitting as an indicator of partisan change and all the districts had more Republican ticket-splitting than the national average. Once the Republican congressmen had lost their seats, the ticket-splitting was less significant, indicating that voters who had previously split their Republican tickets had permanently left the Party. I also used an indication of ideology to see if the representatives had become more liberal compared to the rest of the Congress and compared to the national Republican Party. This would have indicated that the representatives were attempting to balance the preferences of their districts and the preferences of the party. I use DW-NOMINATE scores as a measure of relative ideological placement. To my surprise, the scores for the representative remained stagnant or became more conservative. These findings address the hypothesis and are perhaps even more significant because it provides stronger evidence to explain why the representatives were voted out of office. They did not adhere to moderate district preferences, and voted too much with the increasingly conservative Party.