The Partisan Dimensions of Earmarking in the U.S. House of Representatives

10 May 2023, Version 1
This content is an early or alternative research output and has not been peer-reviewed at the time of posting.


Passing out federal dollars to specific projects in particular districts had been a popular way for congressional leaders to build large bipartisan majorities for major bills since the very first meeting of Congress during the Washington administration. By matching projects to districts, scholars have been able to systematically analyze which members were successful in getting their project funded. But for one year, though, the requests members submitted were never known. Using earmark requests data during the 111th Congress, we can know both the requests and the awards. Knowing the former changes our understanding of the latter. We find that the request process is largely driven by ideology, rather than electoral vulnerability. More moderate Republicans tended to seek more earmarks than their more conservative partisans; some of whom completely opted out of the process. The effect was the opposite for Democrats, whose moderates requested fewer earmarks.


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