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Does political participation make a difference for policy responsiveness, or is affluence what matters most? To examine whether participation beyond voting matters for policy representation, we analyze congruence between citizens’ policy preferences and their representatives’ roll call votes using data from the 2012 Cooperative Congressional Election Study. For the main policy issue for which citizens’ political engagement beyond voting enhances congruence—namely, the Affordable Care Act (ACA) of 2010—we then investigate whether this effect holds when taking citizens’ income into account. The findings show that for the ACA, constituents’ participation beyond voting is associated with increased congruence with their representatives at all levels of income, and that those with less income who are politically active beyond voting experience the largest increase in congruence. However, our findings also show that the potential of political participation and income to enhance congruence is restricted to co-partisans, and to highly partisan and salient issues.
There has been a revolution in voting in the United States in the past forty years. In 1972, voters in only two states had the option to request an absentee ballot without showing cause. In 2008, twenty-seven states allowed voters this opportunity. In 1972, voters in forty-five out of fifty states who were voting at a polling place did so on election day. In 2008, voters in thirty-one states could cast in-person votes on multiple days (notwithstanding the statute that designates the Tuesday after the first Monday in November as election day).
There are obvious political questions about the impact of these changes. Any time an electoral institution is changed we want to know if this will advantage one particular party or another, generally by making it harder or easier for partisans of that party to vote or by changing the incentives of parties to mobilize particular voters. In the case of these laws, the most obvious question to ask is whether they have affected turnout. If we make “election day” span two weeks rather than one day, we have significantly increased the opportunities people have to vote. Will otherwise nonvoters take advantage of those opportunities, or were they nonvoters by choice: they simply do not want to vote? Much of the existing research suggests that offering additional ways of voting has not raised turnout, but simply shifted the mechanism by which people vote (Stein, 1998; Stein and Garcia-Monet, 1997).
We address the question of whether class bias in the American electorate has increased since 1964. We analyze the Census Bureau's Current Population Survey and the National Election Studies for seven consecutive presidential elections, 1964–88. Our results show that conclusions regarding changes in class bias are sensitive to which measure of socioeconomic class is used—income, education, or occupation. We argue that income is the appropriate measure since government policies that discriminate based on socioeconomic class are most likely to do so based on income and there are measurement problems associated with using either education or occupation over time. Our analysis shows that there has been almost no change in class bias in the electorate since 1964.
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