Senate representation and coalition building in distributive politics

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The Senate's equal representation of states shapes coalition building in distributive politics. The great variation in state population means that some states have far greater need for federal funds than others, but all senators have equal voting weight. As a result, even though all senators' votes are of equal value to the coalition builder, they are not of equal "price." Coalition builders can include benefits for small states at considerably less expense to program budgets than comparable benefits for more populous states. Building on formal models of coalition building, two hypotheses are developed and tested. First, coalition builders will seek out less costly members to build supportive coalitions efficiently. Second, the final outcomes of distributive policy will more closely reflect the preferences of small-state senators than large-state senators. The hypotheses are tested by examining the 1991 and 1997-98 reauthorizations of federal surface transportation programs. The findings support both hypotheses.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)59-72
Number of pages14
JournalAmerican Political Science Review
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 2000
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Political Science and International Relations


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