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How Issue Publics Hold Legislators Accountable: Evidence from Longitudinal Survey Experiments

David Broockman, assistant professor of political economy at the Stanford Graduate School of Business, discusses findings that Americans are more likely to remember how their legislators voted when legislation impacts them personally.

May 01, 2018
from 02:00 PM to 03:30 PM

Kerr 693

Abstract: Legislators perceive their constituencies as composed of subgroups with a personal stake in particular policies, but political scientists often argue that self‐interest is only weakly related to public opinion and political behavior. Drawing on theories from psychology, we resolve this puzzle by arguing that having a personal stake in an issue can change how likely citizens are to remember their representative's decisions and take them into account when making voting decisions. We present new data consistent with this theory from a longitudinal survey experiment with a national sample that revealed information to Americans about how their representatives voted on important legislation and tracked the impact of this information over time. We show that Americans are more likely to remember how their legislators voted and to take this information into account in their voting decision when legislation impactsthem personally. Our findings help resolve the longstanding puzzle that legislators perceive self‐interest as politically significant even though it only weakly correlates with issue preferences.

David Broockman’s research considers how voters and politicians decide, generally using field experiments and other approaches that allow for rigorous causal inferences to be drawn. His published work has appeared in the American Journal of Political Science, Political Analysis, Political Behavior, and other outlets.