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The Impact of Incumbent Scandals on Senate Elections, 1972–2016

Department of Political Science, Global Studies, Environmental Science and Policy, School of Behavioral and Social Sciences, St. Edward’s University, Austin, TX 78704, USA
Soc. Sci. 2019, 8(4), 114;
Received: 22 February 2019 / Revised: 24 March 2019 / Accepted: 29 March 2019 / Published: 5 April 2019
(This article belongs to the Section Contemporary Politics and Society)
PDF [242 KB, uploaded 5 April 2019]


In recent decades, a growing body of literature focused on the effects of scandals on congressional elections. The studies concluded that scandals decrease candidates’ vote totals, and that certain types of scandals have a more deleterious effect than others. Virtually all of these studies focus on House elections. The obvious differences between the two chambers calls into question the applicability of these findings for Senate elections. This study examines the impact that incumbent scandals had on senatorial elections from 1972 to 2016. Scandals are categorized based on the nature of the transgression in order to determine if the type of scandal made a difference. The results reveal that senators seeking reelection while confronting a scandal suffered a 4% decrease in the popular vote. Scandals involving political misdeeds, financial improprieties, and controversial statements hurt incumbents the most. Scandals also attracted challengers who spent more money against the incumbents. View Full-Text
Keywords: Congress; campaigns and elections; political candidates; voting behavior; scandals Congress; campaigns and elections; political candidates; voting behavior; scandals
This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited (CC BY 4.0).

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Long, N.C. The Impact of Incumbent Scandals on Senate Elections, 1972–2016. Soc. Sci. 2019, 8, 114.

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