The strategic timing of position taking in congress: A study of the North American Free Trade Agreement

Janet M. Box-Steffensmeier, Laura W. Arnold, Christopher Jon Zorn

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

93 Scopus citations


A critical element of decision making is the timing of choices political actors make; often when a decision is made is as critical as the decision itself. We posit a dynamic model of strategic position announcement based on signaling theories of legislative politics. We suggest that members who receive clear signals from constituents, interest groups, and policy leaders will announce their positions earlier. Those with conflicting signals will seek more information, delaying their announcement. We test several expectations by examining data on when members of the House of Representatives announced their positions on the North American Free Trade Agreement. We also contrast the timing model with a vote model, and find that there are meaningful differences between the factors influencing the timing of position announcements and vote choice. Our research allows analysts to interpret the process leading up to the House action and the end state of that process.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)324-338
Number of pages15
JournalAmerican Political Science Review
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jan 1 1997


All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Political Science and International Relations

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