DP15270 Abstentions and Social Networks in Congress

Author(s): Marco Battaglini, Valerio Leone Sciabolazza, Eleonora Patacchini
Publication Date: September 2020
Keyword(s): abstention, alumni networks, Social Networks, U.S. Congress
JEL(s): D72, D85
Programme Areas: Public Economics
Link to this Page: cepr.org/active/publications/discussion_papers/dp.php?dpno=15270

We study the extent to which personal connections among legislators influence abstentions in the U.S. Congress. Our analysis is conducted by observing representatives' abstention for the universe of roll call votes held on bills in the 109th-113th Congresses. Our results show that a legislator's propensity to abstain increases when the majority of his or her alumni connections abstains, even after controlling for other well-known predictors of abstention choices and a vast set of fixed effects. We further reveal that a legislator is more prone to abstain than to take sides when the demands from personal connections conflict with those of the legislator's party.