Presidential Particularism and Divide-the-Dollar Politics

DOUGLAS L. KRINER, ANDREW REEVES
AMERICAN POLITICAL SCIENCE REVIEW 109.1 (2015): 155-171

Abstract: When influencing the allocation of federal dollars across the country, do presidents strictly pursue maximally efficient outcomes, or do they systematically target dollars to politically influential constituencies? In a county-level analysis of federal spending from 1984 to 2008, we find that presidents are not universalistic, but particularistic—that is, they reliably direct dollars to specific constituents to further their political goals. As others have noted, presidents target districts represented by their co-partisans in Congress in the pursuit of influence vis-à-vis the legislature. But we show that, at much higher levels, presidents target both counties within swing states and counties in core states that strongly supported the president in recent elections. Swing state particularism is especially salient during presidential reelection years, and core partisan counties within swing states are most heavily rewarded. Rather than strictly pursuing visions of good public policy or pandering to the national median voter, our results suggest that presidents systematically prioritize the needs of politically important constituents.