M. Battaglini, V. Leone Sciabolazza, E. Patacchini (2020), Abstentions and Social Networks in Congress, NBER Working Paper 27822

We study the extent to which personal connections among legislators influence abstentions in the U.S. Congress. Our analysis is conducted by observing representatives’ abstention for the universe of roll call votes held on bills in the 109th-113th Congresses. Our results show that a legislator’s propensity to abstain increases when the majority of his or her alumni connections abstains, even after controlling for other well-known predictors of abstention choices and a vast set of fixed effects. We further reveal that a legislator is more prone to abstain than to take sides when the demands from personal connections conflict with those of the legislator’s party.

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