Electoral Accountability for State Legislative Roll-Calls and Ideological Representation
By Steven Rogers, Saint Louis University
State legislatures have considerable authority over American’s lives. Legislators determine who has the opportunity to vote, go to college, and even get married. Elections are the primary instrument by which Americans can exert control over their representatives in state government, but political scientists know surprisingly little regarding the electoral consequences for poor state legislative representation.
In “Electoral Accountability for State Legislative Roll-Calls and Ideological Representation,” Steven Rogers provides a compressive account of the electoral implications for state legislators’ ideological representation or unpopular roll-call votes. Rogers discovers legislators face less punishment than their Congressional counterparts for poor ideological representation, particularly in areas where legislators receive less media attention or represent more partisan districts. In a study of individual roll-call votes, Rogers uses referendum election returns on recent controversial state-level issues, such as collective bargaining and gay marriage, to create district-level measures of public opinion on the exact bills voted on by their legislators. Voters only appear to punish legislators for unpopular roll calls on 4 of 30 examined bills. Together, Rogers’ analyses suggest that while state legislators wield considerable policy-making power, elections to not appear to hold many legislators accountable for their lawmaking.