Stranger danger: Redistricting, incumbent recognition, and vote choice*

M. V. Hood, Seth C. McKee

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Scopus citations


Objectives: We take a step forward in examining the electoral effects of redistricting by: (1) demonstrating that voters with a new incumbent because of redistricting are less likely to recognize their representative, and (2) voters are less likely to vote for their representative if they fail to recognize him or her. Methods: Our data come from a survey of white respondents who resided in the redrawn Eighth District of Georgia for the 2006 U.S. House elections. We use probit regressions to first measure the effect of redistricting on incumbent recognition. Then, we assess the likelihood of voting for the incumbent depending on whether a respondent was redrawn or has the same incumbent after redistricting, and whether or not the respondent could recognize his or her representative. Results: Our analyses make it clear that redrawn voters were much less likely to recognize their incumbent and it is the inability to recognize one's incumbent, irrespective of whether the representative has changed due to redistricting, which accounts for a reduced likelihood of voting for the incumbent. Conclusions: Other scholars have examined the relationship between redistricting and incumbent recognition. Likewise, many have evaluated the effects of redistricting on vote choice. This article, however, is the first to merge these two relationships. We find that redrawn constituents are less likely to know who their representative is, and it is indeed a lack of familiarity that reduces an incumbent's vote share. Thus, we have shown empirically that the absence of a personal vote, which is exacerbated by redistricting, proves electorally harmful to the incumbent.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)344-358
Number of pages15
JournalSocial Science Quarterly
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jun 2010


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