US State-Based Politics Ignores Majority Opinion Half the Time

Academic

Source

The Democratic Deficit in the States
American Journal of Political Science
Volume: 
56
Issue: 
1
Page numbers: 
148–166
Pages: 
18

Summary:

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.

Author(s)
Jeffrey Lax

Columbia University

Justin Phillips

Columbia University

Countries/Regions
USA
Published Date
January 1, 2011