Thinking Globally or Acting Locally? Determinants of the GATT Vote in Congress
Legislative Studies Quarterly XXIII:33-55

While there exist many influences on legislators' votes, the U.S. system of plurality districts should ensure that constituent interests weigh most heavily. However, in marked contrast both to theories of legislative influence and to representatives' own explanations for their votes, quantitative analysis of congressional roll-call voting has largely failed to show a significant relationship between constituent interests and congressional behavior. We examine the 1994 House and Senate votes on the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) in light of this incongruence between empirical research, anecdotal evidence and theoretical argument. Unlike previous studies, we compile data at the level of congressional districts. Our analysis pays special attention to the construction of competing economic models of constituent interest and welfare. Finally, our research supports the argument that congressional committees are pivotal in the legislative decision-making process. We assess the impact of committees on the GATT bill in terms of partisanship, personal ideology and constituent interests of committee members. Better data, a more precise research design, and introduction of committees allows a better assessment of this paradox of congressional voting.

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