US State-Based Politics Ignores Majority Opinion Half the Time
The authors examine how to assess and measure the ‘democratic deficit’ in the state political systems within the United States, in terms of how well state-based politics translates public opinion into policy.
The research, which draws on opinion surveys and an examination of legislative outcomes, finds that state politics in the US responds well to public sentiment on some key issues.
But more broadly, state legislatures respond to public opinion with policy that reflects the majority opinion of the public only half the time: 'In other words, state governments are on average no more effective in translating opinion majorities into public policy than a simple coin flip'.
The authors argue that this gap between public sentiment and policy outcomes is the result of a number of factors, notably elected representatives being ‘over responsive’ to their party’s ideology and ‘under responsive’ to local constituent opinions.
They conclude that their research calls into question the belief that state governments in the US are more responsive to their constituents than the national government.
Thumbnail image: Nicolas Raymond/Flickr.