Elections as Filters: Term Limits and the Composition of the U.S. House

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Assessment of proposals to limit legislative terms has been restricted, and thus muddled, by a dearth of empirical data. Absent hard evidence, an abundance of often contradictory speculation has emerged, further cloud ing the term limits debate. This paper offers a simple mathematical model in an effort to construct a sound analytic framework for examination of the possible effects of terms limits on the composition of the U.S. House. The model treats elections as filters, or mechanisms with which voters strive to differentiate among candidates on the basis of quality. The analysis demonstrates that term limits will produce a substantial reduction in the quality of the U.S. House under baseline conditions. Terms limits also are associated with a decline in the quality of the House in a majority of alter native conditions, and the average magnitude of that decline is substantial.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)701-727
Number of pages27
JournalPolitical Research Quarterly
Issue number4
StatePublished - Dec 1995
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sociology and Political Science

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