For the paper, we look at the impact of four roll call votes: health reform, the stimulus, cap-and-trade, and the TARP bailout from 2008. We find that a vote for health reform was very costly for Democrats, reducing reelection margins by six to eight percentage points. This cost at least thirteen House Democrats their jobs. We find a smaller, but still statistically significant, effect for supporting TARP. The stimulus has a mixed effect, harming Democrats in more conservative districts but possibly helping them in more liberal ones. We found no overall effect for cap-and-trade.
Here's my favorite graph from our paper, showing the estimated impact of the health reform vote on Democrats' likelihood of reelection. The patterns are generated by a logit equation and show how Democrats from a broad range of districts fared in 2010 based on this one roll call vote. For example, in a district where Obama got 40% of the vote in 2008, a Democratic representative would have a
Steve and I are going to meet with Eric McGhee, John Sides, and Brendan Nyhan about their research on this topic to figure out where we agree and disagree. We'd talked about meeting for beers, but it's a morning meeting, so we'd best stick with wine.
Late update: A few folks noted a slight coding error in the original paper. We've updated the paper accordingly, and the results are substantively identical. I've corrected the above post as needed.