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Institutional and District-Level Sources of Competition in State Legislative Elections

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Objectives.

What are the sources of partisan competition in state legislative elections? Specifically, what impact do institutional features have relative to district-level conditions on competition between party nominees? Methods.

Using data from 30 states in 1994 and 1996, a range of factors are examined to determine their influence on both the likelihood that a race is contested and the degree of competition that results. Results.

Multiple regression analyses indicate that a district's characteristics, measured as social and partisan diversity, have a strong and durable influence on elections. Contested elections are more likely and competition levels are higher in districts with heterogeneous populations. Institutional characteristics such as legislative professionalism also have a large influence, although the direction of their impact varies by stage of the electoral process examined. For example, professionalism increases the likelihood that an election is contested, but leads to a lower level of competition between opposing candidates. Conclusions.

District-level conditions have a large influence on competition; however, incentives created by institutional features are also critical for understanding the competitiveness of state legislative elections.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 01 September 2003

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