In many media and academic accounts, legislators are framed as stubborn policy high demanders. The most ideological voices are amplified. Policymaking is a game of zero-sum bargaining between ideological opponents, where for one position to win, the other must lose.
This account seems out of place in many legislatures. Legislators’ policy positions are not as fixed as we might believe. Legislators are, often, genuinely uncertain what position to take. They hold hearings, meet with constituents and lobbyists, caucus, and deliberate. They often support bills from opposition legislators and, on occasion, even change their minds about whether to support a bill.
My research examines how legislators decide to take positions on policies. In particular, I examine how factors inside the legislature – including information, cue-taking, deliberation, and institutions – affect position-taking. My dissertation presents three field experiments, conducted in a legislature with the approval and participation of legislators and staff, that examine how information affects individual cosponsorship and roll call voting.
Research outside my dissertation examines other factors that may affect legislators’ policy positions. Work with Jeff Lax and Justin Phillips examines responsiveness to affluent and partisan constituencies. Observational and experimental work with Don Green explores the importance of campaign finance. And work with Shigeo Hirano examines how primary election competition between intraparty factions affects the ideological composition of legislatures.
NEWER PAPER (just accepted at QJPS): Why are well-known political figures seemingly immune to scandal? Don Green, David Kirby, and I study the effect of scandals on voters’ evaluations of political figures? Publicizing Scandal
NEW PAPER: Jeff Lax, Justin Phillips, and I apply multilevel regression and poststratification to estimate public preferences by voters’ state, income, and party. Are senators more responsive to affluent or partisan constituents? Party or the Purse (DRAFT)?.