Deployed to Congress: How Military Experience Influences Legislative Behavior

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Amoroso, Joseph, Government - Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, University of Virginia
Kirkland, Justin, Department of Politics, University of Virginia
Volden, Craig, Frank Batten School of Leadership and Public Policy, University of Virginia

Motivated by a campaign narrative common among military veterans running for elective office, this thesis explores how particular values emphasized in the military map onto measurable legislative behavior in Congress. I theorize that veterans adopt a distinct approach to lawmaking, engaging in activities that prioritize productivity and building consensus. This theory speaks to a member’s overall legislative strategy thus, I test the narrative using a composite measure of “legislative style” (Bernhard and Sulkin 2018). In assessing members serving in the 101st-110th Congressional Sessions (1989-2008), the findings suggest that veteran members differ slightly in terms of style. When compared to adopting a style that seeks to build up the party organization in Congress, veterans are more likely to choose a style that prioritizes district concerns. Beyond style, I test the narrative further, employing measures of legislative effectiveness and party fundraising. I find that veterans exhibit some differences in moving consequential legislation through the bill-making process. Additionally, I find significant evidence that veteran members give less of their campaign money to the party establishment. Taken together, these results offer modest support for the claims that veteran lawmakers engage in noticeably different legislative behavior.

MA (Master of Arts)
Veterans, Congress, Legislative Behavior
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