Social connections between individuals can profoundly impact their political behavior. A growing body of research on legislative politics examines how spatial proximity to fellow legislators affects voting behavior within the institution. However, studies that examine this question often suffer from a fundamental identification problem in which proximity effects may reflect actual behavioral diffusion between members or, instead, homophily, in which legislators of a similar political feather flock together. We overcome this observational equivalence by exploiting a unique random seating lottery for seating assignments in the world's oldest existing parliament, Iceland's national legislature, Alþingi. Utilizing this naturally occurring randomization, we employ spatial analyses of more than 20,000 estimates of spatial dependence and find little evidence that seating proximity leads to similar voting behavior by members in this legislative context.
Darmofal, Darmofal, Charles J. Finocchiaro, & Indridi H. Indridason. Forthcoming. Roll-Call Voting Under Random Seating Assignment. Political Science Research & Methods.