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  • Cited by 17
Cambridge University Press
Online publication date:
January 2020
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Book description

Legislative solutions to pressing problems like balancing the budget, climate change, and poverty usually require compromise. Yet national, state, and local legislators often reject compromise proposals that would move policy in their preferred direction. Why do legislators reject such agreements? This engaging and relevant investigation into how politicians think reveals that legislators refuse compromise - and exacerbate gridlock - because they fear punishment from voters in primary elections. Prioritizing these electoral interests can lead lawmakers to act in ways that hurt their policy interests and also overlook the broader electorate's preferences by representing only a subset of voters with rigid positions. With their solution-oriented approach, Anderson, Butler, and Harbridge-Yong demonstrate that improving the likelihood of legislative compromise may require moving negotiations outside of the public spotlight. Highlighting key electoral motives underlying polarization, this book is an excellent resource for scholars and students studying Congress, American politics, public policy, and political behavior.


‘… well-written and well-researched book …’

D. P. Franklin Source: Choice

'Why won’t legislators accept compromises, even ones that move policy in the direction they favor? This book identifies not only a primary culprit - the fear of a backlash by primary voters - but a possible solution. It deserves to be read by scholars and politicians alike.'

John Sides - Professor of Political Science at Vanderbilt University

'Anderson, Butler, and Harbridge-Yong make a compelling case that the threat of electoral punishment by primary voters is deterring politicians from supporting compromise policy proposals. This book also makes an important contribution to the broader debate over the mechanisms and consequences of polarization - the effects of elite perceptions of primary voters on legislative behavior is a critically important topic that has received too little scholarly attention.'

Brendan Nyhan - Professor of Government, Dartmouth College

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