American Government and Politics

Partisan Asymmetries in Earmark Representation



This paper examines the variation in earmarking behavior between Republicans and Democrats in the U.S. House of Representatives. After a ten-year moratorium, Congress brought back earmarks to the appropriations process in 2021 enabling members to request small grants for community programs in their districts. As part of a reform designed to limit corruption and wasteful spending, members had to submit written justifications for the grants, which provide insight into how members of Congress view their role as representatives. In performing a content analysis on 3,007 earmark justifications, we find that Democrats are more likely to justify their spending by noting its benefits to specific social groups in their party coalition, while Republicans rarely do so. Democrats are more likely to request grants on their core partisan priorities, while Republicans tend to focus on large local infrastructure projects that are seemingly unrelated to their national priorities.


Thumbnail image of Representational Style and 2021 Earmarks For Review.pdf


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