Competition in Congressional Elections: Money versus Votes

Competition among candidates or parties is a necessary condition for democracy. But who counts as a candidate and what counts as competition? The influence of money in American elections makes fundraising an appropriate alternative to vote totals, and it provides a new vantage point to assess the quality of electoral competition. I draw on a dataset of preelection campaign receipts to measure competition in U.S. House primaries from 1980 to 2020. When competition is measured with receipts, it looks markedly worse than vote share measures suggest. Moreover, the difference between vote share and fundraising measures is largest in open-seat primaries, or the best-case scenarios of competition. The disparity between measures is driven largely by candidates who have little chance of winning. The findings shed new light on resource disparities in elections and demonstrate that our conclusions about the quality of competition are tied to our measures.

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License CC BY
Type Journal Articles
C-ID POLS 110 - American