Skip to main content Accessibility help
×
Home
Hostname: page-component-55597f9d44-dfw9g Total loading time: 0.325 Render date: 2022-08-17T00:55:17.597Z Has data issue: true Feature Flags: { "shouldUseShareProductTool": true, "shouldUseHypothesis": true, "isUnsiloEnabled": true, "useRatesEcommerce": false, "useNewApi": true } hasContentIssue true

Relative Policy Support and Coincidental Representation

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  15 December 2015

Abstract

The finding that the preferences of middle-income Americans are ignored when they diverge from the preferences of the rich is one of the most widely accepted and influential conclusions in political science research today. I offer a cautionary note regarding this conclusion. I demonstrate that even on those issues for which the preferences of the wealthy and those in the middle diverge, policy ends up about where we would expect if policymakers represented the middle class and ignored the affluent. This result emerges because even when middle- and high-income groups express different levels of support for a policy (i.e., a preference gap exists), the policies that receive the most (least) support among the middle typically receive the most (least) support among the affluent (i.e., relative policy support is often equivalent). As a result, the opportunity of unequal representation of the “average citizen” is much less than previously thought. The analysis also shows, however, that substantial opportunity exists for unequal representation of strong partisan preferences. Together, these results reinforce the importance of party identification for understanding policy outcomes and who gets represented.

Type
Reflections Symposium
Copyright
Copyright © American Political Science Association 2015 

Access options

Get access to the full version of this content by using one of the access options below. (Log in options will check for institutional or personal access. Content may require purchase if you do not have access.)

References

Abrajano, Marisa and Poole, Keith T.. 2011. “Assessing the Ethnic and Racial Diversity of American Public Opinion.” In Who Gets Represented?, ed. Enns, Peter K. and Wlezien, Christopher. New York: Russell Sage Foundation.Google Scholar
Abramowitz, Alan I. 2010. The Disappearing Center. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press.Google Scholar
Althaus, Scott L. 2003. Collective Preferences in Democratic Politics. New York: Cambridge University Press.10.1017/CBO9780511610042CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Bartels, Larry M. 2008. Unequal Democracy. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.Google Scholar
Bernstein, Jared. 2014. “A Model of American Inequality, Opportunity, and Political Power.” In Working and Living in the Shadow of Economic Fragility., ed. Crain, Marion and Sherraden, Michael. New York: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
Bhatti, Yosef and Erikson, Robert S.. 2011. “How Poorly are the Poor Represented in the U.S. Senate?” In Who Gets Represented?, ed. Enns, Peter K. and Wlezien, Christopher. New York: Russell Sage Foundation.Google Scholar
Bonica, Adam, McCarty, Nolan, Poole, Keith T., and Rosenthal, Howard. 2013. “Why Hasn't Democracy Slowed Rising Inequality?” Journal of Economic Perspectives 27(3): 103–24.10.1257/jep.27.3.103CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Box-Steffensmeier, Janet M., De Boef, Suzanna, and Lin, Tse-Min. 2004. “The Dynamics of the Partisan Gender Gap.” American Political Science Review 98(3): 515–28.10.1017/S0003055404001315CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Citrin, Jack and Green, Donald Philip. 1990. “The Self-Interest Motive in American Public Opinion.” In Research in Micropolitics, vol. 3, ed. Long, Samuel. Greenwich: JAI Press.Google Scholar
Delli, Carpini, Michael, X., and Keeter, Scott. 1996. What Americans Know About Politics and Why it Matters. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press.Google Scholar
Disch, Lisa. 2012. “Democratic Representation and the Constituency Paradox.” Perspectives on Politics 10(3): 599616.10.1017/S1537592712001636CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Domhoff, G. William. 2002. “The Power Elite, Public Policy, and Public Opinion.” In Navigating Public Opinion, ed. Manza, Jeff, Cook, Fay Lomax, and Page, Benjamin. New York: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
Downs, Anthony. 1957. An Economic Theory of Democracy. New York: Harper and Row.Google Scholar
Druckman, James N. and Jacobs, Lawrence R.. 2011. “Segmented Representation: The Reagan White House and Disproportionate Responsiveness.” In Who Gets Represented?, ed. Enns, Peter K. and Wlezien, Christopher. New York: Russell Sage Foundation.Google Scholar
Ellis, Christopher R., Daniel Ura, Joseph, and Robinson, Jenna Ashley. 2006. “The Dynamic Consequences of Nonvoting in American National Elections.” Political Research Quarterly. 59(2): 227–33.10.1177/106591290605900205CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Enns, Peter K. and Kellstedt, Paul M.. 2008. “Policy Mood and Political Sophistication: Why Everybody Moves Mood.” British Journal of Political Science 38(3): 433–54.10.1017/S0007123408000227CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Enns, Peter K. Kelly, Nathan J., Morgan, Jana, Volscho, Thomas and Witko, Christopher. 2014. “Conditional Status Quo Bias and Top Income Shares: How U.S. Political Institutions Have Benefited the Rich.” Journal of Politics 76(2): 289303.10.1017/S0022381613001321CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Enns, Peter K. and Wlezien, Christopher. 2011. “Group Opinion and the Study of Representation.” In Who Gets Represented?, ed. Enns, Peter K. and Wlezien, Christopher. New York: Russell Sage Foundation.Google Scholar
Erikson, Robert S., , MichaelMacKuen, B., and Stimson, James A.. 2002. The Macro Polity. New York: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
Ferguson, Thomas. 1995. Golden Rule: The Investment Theory of Party Competition and the Logic of Money-Driven Political Systems. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press.10.7208/chicago/9780226162010.001.0001CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Franko, William, Tolbert, Caroline J., and Witko, Christopher. 2013. “Inequality, Self-Interest, and Public Support for ‘Robin Hood’ Tax Policies.” Political Research Quarterly 66(4): 923–37.10.1177/1065912913485441CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Gaventa, John. 1982. Power and Powerlessness. Urbana: University of Illinois Press.Google Scholar
Gilens, Martin. 1999. Why Americans Hate Welfare. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press.10.7208/chicago/9780226293660.001.0001CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Gilens, Martin. 2005. “Inequality and Democratic Responsiveness.” Public Opinion Quarterly 69(5) :778–96.10.1093/poq/nfi058CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Gilens, Martin. 2009. “Preference Gaps and Inequality in Representation.” PS: Political Science and Politics 42(2): 335–41.Google Scholar
Gilens, Martin. 2011. “Policy Consequences of Representational Inequality.” In Who Gets Represented?, ed. Enns, Peter K. and Wlezien, Christopher. New York: Russell Sage Foundation.Google Scholar
Gilens, Martin. 2012. Affluence and Influence: Economic Inequality and Political Power in America. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press and Russell Sage Foundation.Google Scholar
Gilens, Martin and Page, Benjamin I.. 2014. “Testing Theories of American Politics: Elites, Interest Groups, and Average Citizens.” Perspectives Politics 12(3): 564–81.10.1017/S1537592714001595CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Hacker, Jacob S. and Pierson, Paul. 2005. “Abandoning the Middle: The Bush Tax Cuts and the Limits of Democratic Control.” Perspectives on Politics 3(1): 3353.10.1017/S1537592705050048CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Heith, Diane J. 1998. “Staffing the White House Public Opinion Apparatus 1969–1988.” Public Opinion Quarterly 62(2): 165–89.10.1086/297839CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Hetherington, Marc J. 2001. “Resurgent Mass Partisanship: The Role of Elite Polarization.” American Political Science Review 95(3): 619–31.10.1017/S0003055401003045CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Hochschild, Jennifer. 1979. “Why the Dog Doesn't Bark: Income, Attitudes, and the Redistribution of Wealth.” Polity 11: 478511.10.2307/3234334CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Hochschild, Jennifer. 1981. What's Fair? American Beliefs about Distributive Justice. Cambridge, MA.: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
Jacobs, Lawrence R. and Page, Benjamin I.. 2005. “Who Influences U.S. Foreign Policy?American Political Science Review 99(1): 107–24.10.1017/S000305540505152XCrossRefGoogle Scholar
Jacobs, Lawrence R. and Shapiro, Robert Y.. 1994. “Issues, Candidate Image, and Priming: The Use of Private Polls in Kennedy's 1960 Presidential Campaign.” American Political Science Review 88(3): 527–40.10.2307/2944793CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Jacobs, Lawrence R., and Shapiro, Robert Y.. 1995. “The Rise of Presidential Polling: The Nixon White House in Historical Perspective.” Public Opinion Quarterly 59(2): 163–95.10.1086/269468CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Jacobs, Lawrence R. and Skocpol, Theda. 2005. “American Democracy in an Era of Rising Inequality.” In Inequality and American Democracy, ed. Jacobs, Lawrence R. and Skocpol, Theda. New York: Russell Sage Foundation.Google Scholar
Jacobson, Gary C. 2012. “The Electoral Origins of Polarized Politics: Evidence from the 2010 Cooperative Congressional Election Study.” American Behavioral Scientist 56(12): 1612–30.10.1177/0002764212463352CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Jacoby, William G. 2014 “Is There a Culture War? Conflicting Value Structures in American Public Opinion.” American Political Science Review 108(4): 754–71.10.1017/S0003055414000380CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Kaufmann, Karen M. and Petrocik, John R.. 1999. “The Changing Politics of American Men: Understanding the Sources of the Gender Gap.” American Journal of Political Science 43: 864–87.10.2307/2991838CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Kelly, Nathan J. and Enns, Peter K.. 2010. “Inequality and the Dynamics of Public Opinion: The Self-Reinforcing Link between Economic Inequality and Mass Preferences.” American Journal of Political Science 54(4): 855–70.10.1111/j.1540-5907.2010.00472.xCrossRefGoogle Scholar
Kinder, Donald R. and Sanders, Lynn M.. 1996. Divided by Color. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
Lau, Richard R. and Heldman, Caroline. 2009. “Self-Interest, Symbolic Attitudes, and Support for Public Policy.” Political Psychology 30(4): 513–37.10.1111/j.1467-9221.2009.00713.xCrossRefGoogle Scholar
Leighley, Jan E. and Nagler, Jonathan. 2014. Who Votes Now? Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.Google Scholar
Levendusky, Matthew. 2009. The Partisan Sort. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press.10.7208/chicago/9780226473673.001.0001CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Lupu, Noam and Pontusson, Jonas. 2011. “The Structure of Inequality and the Politics of Redistribution.” American Political Science Review 105(2): 316–36.10.1017/S0003055411000128CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Mansbridge, Jane J. 1990. “Preface.” In Beyond Self-Interest, ed. Mansbridge, Jane J.. Chicago, IL: The University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
Mansbridge, Jane J. 2003. “Rethinking Representation.” American Political Science Review 97(4): 515–28.10.1017/S0003055403000856CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Monroe, Alan. 1979. “Consistency between Constituency Preferences and National Policy Decisions.” American Politics Quarterly 12: 319.10.1177/1532673X7900700101CrossRefGoogle Scholar
O'Brien, Steven, McGuire, Paula, McPherson, James M., and Gerstle, Gary. 1991. American Political Leaders: From Colonial Times to the Present. Santa Barbara, CA: ABC-CLIO.Google Scholar
Page, Benjamin I. and Shapiro, Robert Y.. 1983. “Effects of Public Opinion on Policy.” American Political Science Review 77(1): 175–90.10.2307/1956018CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Page, Benjamin I., and Shapiro, Robert Y.. 1992. The Rational Public: Fifty Years of Trends in Americans' Policy Preferences. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press.10.7208/chicago/9780226644806.001.0001CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Pitkin, Hanna F. 1967. The Concept of Representation. Berkeley: University of California Press.Google Scholar
Rhodes, Jesse H. and Schaffner, Brian F.. 2013. “Economic Inequality and Representation in the U.S. House: A New Approach Using Population-Level Data.” Presented at the Annual Meeting of the Midwest Political Science Association, Chicago, IL, April 2013.Google Scholar
Rigby, Elizabeth and Wright, Gerald C.. 2011. “Whose Statehouse Democracy? Policy Responsiveness to Poor versus Rich Constituents in Poor versus Rich States.” In Who Gets Represented?, ed. Enns, Peter K. and Wlezien, Christopher. New York: Russell Sage Foundation.Google Scholar
Schattschneider, E. E. 1960. The Semi-Sovereign People: A Realist's View of Democracy in America. New York: Holt, Rinehart, and Winston.Google Scholar
Sears, David O. and Funk, Carolyn L.. 1990. “The Limited Effect of Economic Self-interest on the Political Attitudes of the Mass Public.” Journal of Behavioral Economics 19: 247–71.10.1016/0090-5720(90)90030-BCrossRefGoogle Scholar
Shapiro, Robert Y. and Young, John M.. 1986. “The Polls: Medical Care in the United States.” Public Opinion Quarterly 50: 418–28.10.1086/268994CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Sombart, Werner. 1976 [1906]. Why There Is No Socialism in the United States. New York: Sharpe.10.1007/978-1-349-02524-4CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Soroka, Stuart N. and Wlezien, Christopher. 2008. “On the Limits to Inequality in Representation.” PS: Political Science and Politics 41(2) :319–27.Google Scholar
Stimson, James A., MacKuen, Michael B., and Erikson, Robert S.. 1995. “Dynamic Representation.” American Political Science Review 89(3): 543–65.10.2307/2082973CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Winters, Jeffrey A. 2011. Oligarchy. New York: Cambridge University Press.10.1017/CBO9780511793806CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Winters, Jeffrey A. and Page, Benjamin I.. 2009. “Oligarchy in the United States?” Perspectives on Politics 7(4): 731–51.10.1017/S1537592709991770CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Wlezien, Christopher and Soroka, Stuart. 2011. “Inequality in Policy Responsiveness?” In Who Gets Represented?, ed. Enns, Peter K. and Wlezien, Christopher. New York: Russell Sage Foundation.Google Scholar
Wolfinger, Raymond E. and Rosenstone, Steven J.. 1980. Who Votes? New Haven, CT: Yale University Press.Google Scholar
Supplementary material: PDF

Enns supplementary material

Online Appendix

Download Enns supplementary material(PDF)
PDF 460 KB
48
Cited by

Save article to Kindle

To save this article to your Kindle, first ensure coreplatform@cambridge.org is added to your Approved Personal Document E-mail List under your Personal Document Settings on the Manage Your Content and Devices page of your Amazon account. Then enter the ‘name’ part of your Kindle email address below. Find out more about saving to your Kindle.

Note you can select to save to either the @free.kindle.com or @kindle.com variations. ‘@free.kindle.com’ emails are free but can only be saved to your device when it is connected to wi-fi. ‘@kindle.com’ emails can be delivered even when you are not connected to wi-fi, but note that service fees apply.

Find out more about the Kindle Personal Document Service.

Relative Policy Support and Coincidental Representation
Available formats
×

Save article to Dropbox

To save this article to your Dropbox account, please select one or more formats and confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you used this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your Dropbox account. Find out more about saving content to Dropbox.

Relative Policy Support and Coincidental Representation
Available formats
×

Save article to Google Drive

To save this article to your Google Drive account, please select one or more formats and confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you used this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your Google Drive account. Find out more about saving content to Google Drive.

Relative Policy Support and Coincidental Representation
Available formats
×
×

Reply to: Submit a response

Please enter your response.

Your details

Please enter a valid email address.

Conflicting interests

Do you have any conflicting interests? *