Affiliation: College of Arts and Sciences, Department of Political Science
This project examines how legislative chamber competitiveness (i.e. how likely it is that majority control of a legislative chamber will flip to the other party) and political polarization (i.e. the ideological differences between the parties) affect the battle for majority control of legislative bodies. Examining these factors in the context of prospective candidates, political parties, and incumbent legislators, I posit that political actors take chamber competitiveness into account because every conceivably winnable seat is important, as that seat could be pivotal in determining majority control when a chamber is competitive. At the same time, I theorize that political polarization has important effects on decision-making by political actors because a greater degree of polarization produces a wider gap between the policies each party would pursue in government, thus increasing the stakes of an election outcome. Finally, I examine the effect of conditions of high political polarization and low chamber competitiveness on members of the minority party, arguing that such conditions are likely to be unpleasant for these minority party political actors. Ultimately, I argue that these unfavorable conditions are likely to lead to disengagement (e.g. not running for office, not raising large amounts of money, retiring) by minority party political actors.