ICYMI: New People, New Policies

By Jan Leighley, AJPS Interim Lead Editor

Summer breaks are never long enough, eh? It’s back to “normal” business as of earlier today, when the Editorial Manager submissions portal re-opened for new business. During our break, I posted some details about the updated submissions guidelines, so be sure to take a careful look at some of the changes that we have made (more on those below).

The other change that we made over break was shifting the editorial staff responsibilities from Michigan State University to American University. The transition for staff responsibilities reflected a fundamental change in the editorial structure—with associate editors identifying reviewers and drafting decision letters based on their readings of the manuscript and the reviews, and letters that I send out after reviewing the manuscript and its reviews. One of the biggest changes has been having Marty Jordan, previously the Managing Editor, shift to a new role as Production Editor. In this capacity, Marty will deal with all matters relating to production as well as replication. At AU, Julia Salvatore has taken over the responsibilities of the ever-important AJPS inbox, managing the stream of incoming emails, as well as other matters relating to the editorial procedures and office management. So when you email AJPS@mpsanet.org, you’ll most likely be sending Julia an email, and she will ably respond or move it along to whoever can respond. We also have new staff at AU who will assist with technical checks. This includes Ryan Detamble, a Ph.D. student in the Department of Government.

I wrote last week about changes in the submissions process. We will do our best—with new staff as well as updated guidelines—to move manuscripts through technical checks as fast as possible, but need your help to do so. Please send any questions about new submissions—as well as manuscripts already under review—to AJPS@mpsanet.org, and we will respond as quickly as possible.

A few notes about those updated submission guidelines. In my post last week, I noted the changes but didn’t spend much time explaining the rationale for those changes, and that is: to improve the peer review process. Providing the names of co-authors from the past five years for every author on submitted papers will allow us to avoid “obvious” conflicts of interest that are both difficult and time-consuming for either editors or staff to identify. Additional details regarding author anonymity—and the need to disclose whether the manuscript being submitted is part of a larger project—is essential to allowing the editors (if not reviewers) be able to assess the independent contribution of each manuscript we review. (If you don’t know what “salami-slicing” is in the editing/academic publishing world, maybe ask about that at APSA…) We don’t want to publish papers that are re-treads, or that make marginal advances—which means that the AJPS editorial team and reviewers need to be able to evaluate every manuscript in light of what it contributes, aside from related book projects, other publications—and even related papers under review. We encourage you to follow the updated guidelines  as closely as possible—but also to please email with any questions or concerns you have about related work before you submit your manuscript.

Finally, we announced last week that generally we expect supplemental information (SI) files to be no longer than 20 pages. Our primary goal here is to enhance the use of the SI information as part of the review process—which means for some authors, more focus and intentionality in what and how much is provided as a supplemental file to allow AJPS to publish papers that stand on their own.  We plan to discuss these policies with editorial board members at APSA and will consider additional updates to the guidelines as needed.  Until then, we ask that authors work toward limiting SI files to 20 pages, and send any questions about this to AJPS@mpsanet.org.

With the Editorial Manager portal open again—and the deadline for APSA papers approaching (or past?)—it will be a busy week. I hope it’s a good one on all fronts, as the summer draws to a close.

 

 

AJPS Author Summary: Remittances and Protest in Dictatorships

By Abel Escribà‐Folch, Covadonga Meseguer, and Joseph Wright

Remittances and Protest in DictatorshipsCan migrant remittances foster political change in recipient countries? Do they contribute to empowering citizens? Our research seeks to answer these questions by exploring the relationship between remittance inflows and anti-incumbent protest. We conclude that remittances increase the probability of anti-incumbent mobilization in autocracies. Interestingly, we find that within autocracies, remittance recipients are more likely to mobilize against autocrats in pro-opposition districts. Contrary to the extended view suggesting that remittances induce disengagement from politics by providing families with additional income, we argue that remittances increase political protest in non-democracies by augmenting the resources available to potential political opponents.

For many developing countries, remittances are the second if not the first source of unearned foreign income. Indeed, in 2016, according to UNCTAD and World Bank data, developing countries received $646 billion in foreign direct investment (FDI), while remittances totaled $445 billion. While economists have explored the economic consequences of remittances in home countries for decades, political scientists have, save for a few exceptions, conspicuously ignored the political consequences that remittances may have in their countries of origin. Remittances are private transfers between emigrants and their relatives left behind. As a result, social scientists often portrayed them as free from involvement by government middlemen, in contrast with other sources of unearned foreign income such as aid or oil rents. But what does this imply in terms of the domestic political consequences of these flows?

In our article, we use novel data on anti-incumbent protests in 102 countries in the period 1976–2010 to show that remittances increase the likelihood of anti-incumbent protest in autocracies, where groups have limited access to resources and institutionalized mechanisms for voicing demands are constrained, but not in democracies. Moreover, using subnational data on eight sub-Saharan autocracies in 2008, we spell out the conditions under which protest in autocratic regimes is more likely to occur. In particular, we contend that remittances activate protest in opposition districts, where dissatisfaction with incumbent governments is likely to be higher. This effect is not, however, present in non-opposition regions. In other words, the availability of extra resources in the form of remittances is not enough to spur contentious political activities. Insofar as protests in autocratic regimes are a major factor conducive to regime change, our article shows that remittances can be a factor triggering transitions to democracy in autocratic regimes.

 
About the Authors: Abel Escribà-Folch is Associate Professor at the Department of Political and Social Sciences at Universitat Pompeu Fabra, Covadonga Meseguer is Associate Professor of International Relations at London School of Economics and Political Science, and Joseph Wright is Associate Professor in the Department of Political Science at Pennsylvania State University. Their research “Remittances and Protest in Dictatorships” is now available in Early View and will appear in a forthcoming issue of the American Journal of Political Science.

Some Details about New AJPS Submission Requirements

By Jan Leighley, AJPS Interim Lead Editor

I’m a firm believer in celebrating every step along the way when the goal is to publish research at a peer-reviewed journal: when the manuscript is “done”; when it’s submitted; when there is a decision (whether positive or not, and whether final or not); when page proofs arrive; when page proofs are completed; when the manuscript is published online; and when the print version arrives. As with many aspects of academic life, publishing always takes longer, and is always more complicated, than one would like.

Celebrating the submission of a manuscript to the AJPS has never been more important—in part because of its high impact ranking, but also (on a more practical level) we are now asking authors to do a bit more as they submit manuscripts. Effective immediately, we have added several new details to the submission process. All authors who plan to submit a manuscript should take a look at the updated submission guidelines we have posted online before finishing the manuscript for submission.

One of the key changes we have made is to limit the length of Supporting Information documents to 20 pages or less. While it is true that online “space” (where Supporting Information documents are published) is unlimited, the time and attention of editors and reviewers are not. We hope this page limit results in more thoughtful and focused decisions about what additional details are provided—but also helps to produce papers that can “stand alone,” without a seeming endless dumping of additional details and analysis into the ever-present “Supporting Information” file.

The new manuscript guidelines also provide more details about how we expect author anonymity to be maintained in the manuscript. Here, we also now ask corresponding authors to provide details about other related papers under review, or book manuscripts in development. We hope this clarifies what information authors are expected to provide to allow reviewers to assess the manuscript’s theoretical and empirical contributions, independent of other related work. Whether cited in the submitted paper or not, if other papers “in progress” overlap with the AJPS submission, we want to know about them.

Related, we now ask corresponding authors to provide the names of co-authors from the past five years for every author of the submitted manuscript, along with identifying each author’s dissertation chair. This allows us to better avoid conflicts-of-interest as we invite reviewers on manuscripts—in a growing, increasingly complex discipline that now reaches across continents. Though we are each experts in our respective subfields (and more, at times), we simply cannot know all the professional and personal connections that might compromise the peer-review process.

And, finally, we have implemented procedures to implement the MPSA council policy regarding editorial conflicts of interest. All authors should review that policy so that the manuscript’s corresponding author is able to identify any potential conflicts of interest with the current editorial team. As dictated by council policy, the MPSA Publishing Ethics Committee (chaired by Sarah Binder) provides guidance on some cases where an alternative editorial process is required.

Thanks to all of our authors for sending their best work to us—and helping us to provide the most efficient and rigorous review process possible.  As always, send questions about the submission and review process to ajps@mpsanet.org, and best wishes for the start of the new semester.

 

What AJPS is Publishing When, and Staff Transitions

By Jan Leighley, AJPS Interim Lead Editor

After a whirlwind editorial transition, we are looking forward to a reprieve from the daily submissions that require our attention. We are taking a two-week break from the workload (instead of the usual month-long hiatus), which will allow us to catch up on decisions, pester reviewers and tend to the usual pre-APSA and Fall Semester preparations.

Of course, the two-week break will not slow down the publication of accepted papers; volume 62:3 was just released in July. All of the papers in 62:3 were shepherded through review and publication by Bill Jacoby and his staff. The same will hold true for nearly all the papers in 62:4—to be published in October—where we have had the privilege of moving some of the papers into the final decision or production stages.

Substantively, I have been surprised by the large number of comparative politics submissions we are receiving—though a careful review of 62:3 and 62:4 should have been an obvious sign that, contrary to some rumors, the AJPS publishes far more than “just” American politics. Related, I have received emails asking whether the AJPS publishes qualitative research papers, as rumor has it the AJPS does not. Just to clarify: come August 20, the AJPS will be open for submissions again, and we welcome submissions across all subfields, and all methodological approaches. As a general journal, we seek to publish the best work across the discipline, papers that offer theoretical, methodological and empirical advances.

I am also using the time over break to make the staff transition from Michigan State to American University, which we couldn’t do during the abbreviated transition period in the spring. I am grateful to the MPSA, Michigan State and, most importantly, the exceptional staff that continued to work for us as we sorted out editorial issues. Marty Jordan, who was Managing Editor for the past year, continued to play this key role for the past few months, while Nathaniel C. Smith and Jessica A. Schoenhoerr also continued in their roles as Editorial Assistants. We simply could not have caught up from the month-long hiatus, and starting to review manuscripts (old and new) without each of them continuing to do the fine work they had done over the past year.

Aside from manuscript decisions, though, who is doing what here in the editorial office will change. I am pleased to introduce Julia Salvatore as our new Editorial Administrative Assistant. Julia will be, most importantly, managing the ajps@mpsanet.org inbox, responding to author, reviewer and associate editor queries, among other office management tasks. Marty Jordan will be shifting to Production Editor, handling all post-decision matters associated with the publication of accepted papers, including replication and post-production communications.

I thank you for your patience as we shift Marty, Julia and others into new and different responsibilities and tasks. Hopefully the slower pace of the editorial office during the break will minimize any disruptions due to the staff transition. As always, send questions or concerns to ajps@mpsanet.org.

AJPS Author Summary: Legislative Capacity and Credit Risk

Author Summary by David Fortunato and Ian R. Turner

AJPS Author Summary - Legislative Capacity and Credit Risk

American state legislatures vary widely in the degree to which they provide legislators with the tools to efficiently translate policy preferences into policy outcomes. The world is complex and legislating is difficult; having more staff that can share the burden of research and bill-writing, more time to craft and scrutinize legislation, and alleviating the need for additional income (apart from one’s legislative salary) allows state legislators to better understand the world and draft policies to more closely reflect their voters’ will. We call the provision of these goods “legislative capacity” and previous research has found that in states where capacity is higher, legislators are more active and voters are substantially more likely to get the policies they want (e.g., Lax and Phillips 2012).[1]

But voters can be fickle, preferring one type of policy today and another tomorrow. Similarly, policy environments are affected by economic shocks and persistent drift. This means that, in states with high capacity legislatures, we should expect more policy change, on average, than in states with low capacity legislatures. This change can make it difficult for lending markets (the individual or institutional investors who buy and sell debt) to predict what a state’s political economic environment — its regulatory regimes, tax codes, etc. that determine its willingness and ability to service its debt — will look like 5, 10, or 20 years in the future. That is, states with high capacity legislatures are better equipped to alter policy in response to changing voter preferences, environmental considerations, or economic shocks, which can introduce variability into the political-economic environment of the state. As a result, we predict that high capacity states will be evaluated as riskier and will have to pay higher premiums to borrow.

We evaluate this claim empirically by comparing states’ credit risk evaluations (estimated from the general obligation bond ratings) to their legislative capacity (legislator salary, legislative session length, and the legislators’ informational resources). In the article we estimate more advanced statistical models, providing robust support for our hypothesized association, but here we simply show the correlation between the two values in all American states over a period of 16 years. In each year the relationship is positive and the modeling we perform in the article reveals that we are confident in this relationship.

Figure 1 - Credit Risk and Legislative Capacity in the American States

Figure 1

 

What these data suggest is that lending markets negatively evaluate states with the legislative resources to more effectively represent their constituents by lowering their credit ratings. That is, we provide evidence that there is a real cost of democratic responsiveness that has thus far remained relatively unexplored. To put this in perspective substantively: On average, the increase in debt maintenance costs necessary to improve capacity from among the lowest ranking states (e.g., New Hampshire, New Mexico, Alabama) to states in middle of the pack (e.g., South Carolina, Connecticut, Arizona) is about $1 per capita, per year in additional debt maintenance costs — a cost that compounds over time as debts inevitably grow.

Of course, we do not argue that our study implies that states would be better off with low capacity policymaking institutions. There are myriad benefits associated with high capacity legislatures, not the least of which is increased policy responsiveness. However, we do suggest that treating democratic responsiveness as an unconditional public good misses important, and potentially very costly, perverse effects that may simultaneously manifest as responsiveness increases. In short, to understand the trade-offs associated with institutional development, such as legislative capacity, for democratic representation and accountability we need to continue to explore both the upsides and the (perhaps unintended) downsides.

About the Authors: David Fortunato is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Political Science at Texas A&M University. Ian R. Turner is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Political Science at Yale University. Their research “Legislative Capacity and Credit Risk” appears in the July 2018 issue (Volume 62, issue 3) of the American Journal of Political Science.

[1] Lax, Jeffrey R., and Justin H. Phillips. 2012. “The Democratic Deficit in the States.” American Journal of Political Science 56(1): 148—166.

AJPS Author Summary: Narcissism and Political Orientations

Author Summary by Peter K. Hatemi and Zoltán Fazekas

AJPS Author Summary: Narcissism and Political OrientationsPolitics and narcissism go hand-in-hand. The relentless trading of insults and scaremongering tactics that spew forth from politicians and political parties declaring that “your” needs are more important than others but are not being met because some group other than the one you “belong to” is to blame; and the sheer joy people experience from watching their favorite pundits degrade their opponents combined with hyper-polarized social media echo-chambers, puts narcissism on display and activates it in the public like no other vehicle can.  We now live in the post-truth age, the “Me Millennium” that promotes the self over society and the superiority of one’s ideas versus a plurality of voices, lacking in honesty and civility.

It is well known that politicians are among the most narcissistic members of society; Hillary Clinton’s Grandiose Narcissism and Donald Trump’s Vulnerable Narcissism are only two of the most high-profile and well-documented examples on an endless list. Surprisingly, however, we know almost nothing about how narcissism manifests in the political values of the general public.

We sought to shed some light on this relationship by conducting a nationally representative study of US citizens days before the 2016 US Presidential election. Despite rhetoric from politicians and the media, we found that those on the left and right are equally narcissistic. Nevertheless, those on the left and right differed in how their narcissism was expressed. This was not a case, however, of the more positive elements of narcissism, such as leadership and self-sufficiency, being assigned to one political viewpoint and the more negative traits such as superiority and exploitativeness being assigned to the other. Rather, between those on the left and right, we only found differences within the negative components of narcissism.

A higher sense of Entitlement is associated with more conservative views, and this association is strongest for immigration attitudes. It was not that Entitlement leads to being more Republican, however, but rather it appears to lead people away from supporting the Democratic party. On the other hand, Exhibitionism, also a maladaptive facet, is related to more liberal positions, and this relationship was strongest for being a Democrat.

These findings reflect many details about the 2016 election. Those who felt more entitled to certain benefits, in particular, those who were more concerned about illegal immigration, moved away from the left, while those whose voices appear the loudest about their entitlements and wanted others to recognize their values were more likely to self-identify as a liberal and Democrat. The mood of the voting public, certainly among the working class, was frustration at the lack of representation and benefits they believed they were due. This resulted in voting Republican in greater numbers. At the same time, mainstream media all but assured the public Hillary Clinton would be the next President. This over-represented voice of the left was partly responsible for polling discrepancies, where reports for Democratic support were exaggerated, while support for then-candidate Trump was under-reported. Overall, our results hint toward narcissism either reflecting or having a role in the rise of populism. Populism’s anti-establishment views focus on individualism, group superiority, and entitlement, rooted in identity-based politics that pit group needs over one another and say “look at me”, reflect the very dimensions of social narcissism.

About the Authors: Pete Hatemi is Distinguished Professor of Political Science at Penn State University, and Zoltán Fazekas is a Post-doctoral Researcher at the University of Oslo University. Their research “Narcissism and Political Orientations” is now available in Early View and will appear in a forthcoming issue of the American Journal of Political Science.

Targeting Ordinary Voters or Political Elites? Why Pork is Distributed Along Partisan Lines in India

Author Summary by Anjali Thomas Bohlken

AJPS - Targeting Ordinary Voters or Political ElitesIn many societies, governments are responsible for delivering a range of important goods and services to citizens such as water, sanitation, roads, and electrification. Yet, although these goods and services could potentially play a significant role in enhancing citizens’ well-being, they are often not allocated to the people and places that would benefit the most from them. Why is this the case? The dominant explanation offered by previous research is that government actors often seek to allocate public resources in such a way as to cater to those citizens who support their political party. But do the preferences of ordinary citizens – or at least certain groups of them – always remain central in shaping government actors’ allocation decisions? My forthcoming article entitled “Targeting Ordinary Voters or Political Elites?” in the American Journal of Political Science suggests that the answer is no. Specifically, I argue in the article that government actors often allocate public works projects not only with the goal of catering to ordinary citizens but also with the goal of winning over the co-operation of political elites occupying positions at lower levels of government.

To provide evidence for this argument, I utilize data on over 70,000 public works projects proposed by Members of Parliament (MPs) in India representing seven states in North India. Using these data, I show that these MPs allocated systematically higher project expenditures in the years just after a state election to areas controlled by state legislators belonging to their party than to otherwise similar areas controlled by opposition party state legislators. I provide further evidence to suggest that these state legislators used these allocations not to cater to ordinary voters at large, but to grant favors to individuals who provided them with electoral assistance or to derive opportunities for private kickbacks.

Why might MPs seek to benefit their partisan colleagues in the state legislature in this way? The reason – I argue – is that these colleagues often have control over the government machinery responsible for implementing public works projects and, if they choose, could help ensure that these projects are successfully implemented. In turn, the successful implementation of these projects could be important for the MP’s own re-election prospects. Thus, MPs may allocate these rewards as part of a quid pro quo exchange in order to win over the co-operation of their partisan colleagues. Consistent with this idea, I find that MPs belonging to the state ruling party who were facing imminent re-election witnessed a greater rate of success in the implementation of public works projects that were located in the areas controlled by co-partisan state legislators.

The findings advance our collective understanding of why, when and how national politicians may have an incentive to cater to political elites rather than citizens when allocating public works projects. In doing so, they shed new light on how citizens in multi-level systems may be disadvantaged by public programs that allow for political discretion in their implementation.

About the Author: Anjali Thomas Bohlken is Assistant Professor in the Sam Nunn School of International Affairs at Georgia Institute of Technology. Her research “Targeting Ordinary Voters or Political Elites? Why Pork Is Distributed Along Partisan Lines in India” is now available in Early View and will appear in a forthcoming issue of the American Journal of Political Science.

With Thanks to Our Reviewers and Editorial Board Members

One of the ways that peer-reviewed journals advance the frontiers of scholarly knowledge in political science is by highlighting the best—theoretical and empirical—work of political scientists. Another way is in providing academics with the opportunity to engage in a “virtual colloquium” when they submit papers for review. Though anonymous, reviewers provide an invaluable service by engaging with the ideas, arguments and evidence presented in our manuscripts.

As an editorial team, we are impressed daily with the quality of the reviews we receive. We value the time and contributions of our reviewers, as we cannot make the right decisions on manuscripts without relying on the expertise of our reviewers’ comments. We publish a list of our reviewers on the journal’s website every year, but this is hardly sufficient recognition of our appreciation—or the reviewers’ contributions. So, to those of you who take time out of your busy work schedules and respond positively to our invitations to review manuscripts, I would like to say: thank you.

I would also like to thank those of you who have agreed to serve on our editorial board this year.  This distinguished group of scholars—whom I’ve informed will likely be asked to do more reviews, in less time, than others who review for us—will also advise us on editorial policies, and provide us critical feedback on a variety of issues relevant to the peer-review process at AJPS. We will have our first editorial board meeting in Boston during the APSA meeting in late August/early September, and we look forward to discussing a wide range of issues then. Be sure to watch for policy updates on the AJPS website that result from that meeting.

Until then, we will continue to provide the most efficient and relevant reviews of the papers that are submitted to AJPS. We do plan to close the AJPS portal to new submissions from August 4 through August 19. Since this isn’t the typical month-long hiatus, we needed to call it something else. We thought about calling this our “August recess,” following the time-honored tradition observed down the street from AU, the Congressional Recess. Some of us thought recess sounded like elementary school, and suggested instead that it be our “August break.” But since we’re only closing to submissions and otherwise making decisions, calling it a break made it sound like more of a vacay than is the case. Finally, we considered taking an “August holiday,” but, well, that just sounds silly. So, bottom line: we’re working, the first two weeks of August, just not accepting new submissions.

Hope your recess/break/vacay/holiday this summer is a good one!

Jan Leighley, Interim Editor

When Toleration Becomes a Vice: Naming Aristotle’s Third Unnamed Virtue

AJPS Author Summary - When Toleration Becomes a ViceAuthor Summary by Richard Avramenko and Michael Promisel

It is a curious pastime of modern man to profess—and even enjoy—that he faces challenges unparalleled in human history. This certainly may be the case. But when it comes to politics and our everyday relations with others, it often is not.

This presumption is apparent in our conceptions of toleration, the virtue pertaining to relations between individuals in disagreement. Many hold that toleration emerged in the early modern period when pacifists proposed the virtue as a remedy to political violence begotten by religious schism and discord. According to this tradition, toleration means finding positive reasons for putting up with—tolerating—conduct and beliefs we find objectionable.

In recent scholarship, however, toleration means something quite different. The virtue has been transformed to confront the supposedly unprecedented challenges of our time. Toleration now demands more than restraining interference or condemnation; the tolerant citizen, it is argued, should avoid causing the pain associated with uncomfortable conversations, personal criticism or even difference of opinion. The discomfort of ethical disagreement and contestation is now construed as cruelty, and cruelty is, of course, the antithesis of toleration. Should one want to defend some social practice, one need only point an accusing finger and level a charge of intolerance at opposition.

This transformation of a central liberal virtue leads to an unsettling conclusion: toleration has become a vice. Sensing this transformation, many desire a return to toleration’s early modern roots. While important, appeals to early modern conceptions do not mitigate the rise of excessive toleration—an extreme iteration of the original principles. After all, the problematic binary of tolerance and intolerance emerged from this period.

A better answer, we argue, can be found much earlier than the modern era. In fact, if we regard toleration as a virtue responding to a perennial human need—reconciling disagreements—many resources present themselves that were previously unthinkable. One such resource is Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics. In fact, hiding under the guise of a “nameless virtue” in Book IV, Chapter 6, is a disposition that looks a lot like toleration, a term unavailable to Aristotle.

When we examine Aristotle’s account, we discover several insights that illuminate the problems with toleration today. Most importantly, Aristotle regards all moral virtues, including toleration, as the balance between two extremes. Toleration is the mean between the deficiency of intolerance and the excess of obsequiousness. This explains how recent iterations can be understood as a vice—they take the virtue too far. Moreover, Aristotle’s treatment of pleasure and pain in social relations offers a nuanced framework for pursuing toleration at a time when emotional pain is often conflated with cruelty. Instead, he demonstrates that pleasure and pain in social relations are secondary to human flourishing and, therefore, that not all pain is cruel.

While his account offers much more to nuance our understanding of toleration, perhaps most striking of all is how helpful such a classical resource can be to diagnose our current predicament and reveal the parallels between political and ethical dilemmas across time.

About the authors: Richard Avramenko is an Associate Professor and Michael Promisel is a Ph.D. Candidate in the Department of Political Science at the University of Wisconsin–Madison. Their research, “When Toleration Becomes a Vice: Naming Aristotle’s Third Unnamed Virtue” is now available in Early View and will appear in a forthcoming issue of the American Journal of Political Science.

 

Coalitional Instability and the Three‐Fifths Compromise

Author Summary by Gordon Ballingrud and Keith L. Dougherty

AJPS Author Summary - Coalitional Instability and the Three‐Fifths CompromiseWere the Constitution’s two methods of legislative apportionment inevitable? This paper determines the coalitional stability of apportionment rules proposed at the Constitutional Convention assuming the Convention limited itself to the rules proposed. An apportionment rule is a criterion for dividing legislative seats, such as the relative populations of each state or the relative values of property within them. Such rules are coalitionally stable if there does not exist another apportionment rule that a majority of voters (in this case, states) prefers to it.

Using each state’s vote share as a measure of state preference, we find that the stability of the apportionment rules proposed at the Constitutional Convention depended upon which states were present. Equal apportionment was in equilibrium (stable) with thirteen states present, as in the Continental Congress, but when Rhode Island and New Hampshire were absent during the first third of the Convention, all of the apportionment rules proposed at the Convention were in a top cycle. That means that if delegates voted to increase their state’s vote share in a pairwise vote, the Convention could move from any one of the proposed rules of apportionment to any other through a series of majority-rule votes.

The Three-Fifths Clause was proposed by James Wilson during this chaotic period, perhaps as an attempt to ground the national legislature on popular rule. With New York departing near the middle of the Convention, equal apportionment and the Three-Fifths Clause became stable -— each of these could not be beaten by any of the other eight rules proposed at the Convention.

This helps us to explain why the Great Compromise was finally reached. We conclude that the Great Compromise was partly the result of historical contingency (i.e., which states participated in in voting and which apportionments were proposed), rather than necessity (as claimed by some historians and legal scholars).

About the Authors: Gordon Ballingrud is Ph.D. Candidate and Keith L. Dougherty is a Professor both in the Department of Political Science at the University of Georgia, Athens. Their research, ”Coalitional Instability and the Three‐Fifths Compromise“ is now available in Early View and will appear in a forthcoming issue of the American Journal of Political Science.



The American Journal of Political Science (AJPS) is the flagship journal of the Midwest Political Science Association and is published by Wiley.