We study how electoral incentives affect policy choices on secondary issues, which only minorities of voters care intensely about. We develop a model in which office and policy-motivated politicians vote in favor of or against regulations on these issues. We derive conditions under which politicians flip-flop, voting according to their policy preferences at the beginning of their terms but in line with the preferences of single-issue minorities as they approach reelection. To assess the evidence, we study U.S. senators' votes on gun control, the environment, and reproductive rights. In line with the model's predictions, we find that election proximity has a pro-gun effect on Democratic senators and a pro-environment effect on Republican senators; these effects arise for senators who are not retiring, do not hold safe seats, and represent states where the single-issue minority is of intermediate size. Also in line with our theory, election proximity does not affect votes on reproductive rights due to the presence of single-issue minorities on both sides.

Supplementary data

You do not currently have access to this content.