Working Paper

Incumbency Disadvantage in U.S. National Politics

Abstract: We document that postwar U.S. national elections show a strong pattern of ?incumbency disadvantage?: If the presidency has been held by a party for some time, that party tends to lose seats in Congress. A model of partisan politics with policy inertia and elections is presented to explain this finding. We also find that the incumbency disadvantage comes sooner for Democrats than Republicans. Based on the observed Democratic bias in Congress (Democrats, on average, hold more seats in the House and Senate than Republicans), the model also offers an explanation for the second finding.

Keywords: rational partisan model; incumbency disadvantage; policy inertia; political disagreement model; partisan politics;

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Bibliographic Information

Provider: Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia

Part of Series: Working Papers

Publication Date: 2017-01-05

Number: 16-36

Pages: 27 pages