We investigate the relationship between controversial roll call votes and support for Democratic incumbents in the 2010 midterm elections. Consistent with previous analyses, we find that supporters of health care reform paid a significant price at the polls. We go beyond these analyses by identifying a mechanism for this apparent effect: constituents perceived incumbents who supported health care reform as more ideologically distant (in this case, more liberal), which in turn was associated with lower support for those incumbents. Our analyses show that this perceived ideological difference mediates most of the apparent impact of support for health care reform on both individual-level vote choice and aggregate-level vote share. We conclude by simulating counterfactuals that suggest health care reform may have cost Democrats their House majority.
This article explores the relationship between individual-level sociability and political engagement. While some evidence exists that individual-level sociability may be related to political engagement and interest, little is known about the ways in which sociability affects participation in different forms of political activity, particularly newer forms of online political engagement. Using data from the 2009 Cooperative Congressional Election Study, we explore the ways in which individual-level sociability affects political engagement in a range of activities, including online political discussions. We find sociability levels affected some activities more than others. Sociability has no impact on more socially isolated political activities such as voter registration and voting, but greatly impacts engagement in political activities involving a higher degree of social interaction, such as attending a meeting where a member of Congress was present and discussing politics with others, both in person and online. These findings help explain longstanding questions about the factors that motivate participation in traditional political activities as well as newer online forms of political engagement.