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Abstract We extend classical ideal point estimation to allow voters to have different preferences when voting in different domains—for example, when voting on agricultural policy than when voting on defense policy. Our scaling procedure results in estimated ideal points on a common scale. As a result, we are able to directly compare a member’s revealed preferences across different domains of voting (different sets of motions) to assess if, for example, a member votes more conservatively on agriculture motions than on defense. In doing so, we are able to assess the extent to which voting behavior of an individual voter is consistent with a uni-dimensional spatial model—if a member has the same preferences in all domains. The key novelty is to estimate rather than assume the identity of “stayers”—voters whose revealed preference is constant across votes. Our approach offers methodology for investigating the relationship between the basic space and issue space in legislative voting (Poole 2007). There are several methodological advantages to our approach. First, our model allows for testing sharp hypotheses. Second, the methodology developed can be understood as a kind of partial-pooling model for item response theory scaling, resulting in less uncertainty of estimates. Related, our estimation method providesmore »
Strategic abstentions—in which legislators abstain from votes for ideological reasons—are a poorly understood feature of legislative voting records. The paper discusses a spatial model for legislators’ revealed preferences that accounts for abstentions when missing values are non-ignorable and allows us to measure the pervasiveness of strategic abstention by identifying legislators who consistently engage in strategic abstentions, as well as bills for which the ideology of legislators is a key driver of abstentions. We illustrate the performance of our model through the analysis of the 101st–112th US Senates.