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Research

Select Working Papers In Circulation

Do Constituents Know (or Care) about the Lawmaking Effectiveness of their Representatives? (With Daniel M. Butler, Adam G. Huges, and Craig Volden)

Substantial evidence exists that members of the U.S. Congress vary in their lawmaking effectiveness. Less known, however, is whether constituents have the knowledge and inclination to hold their representatives accountable, based on their effectiveness. We conducted three separate survey experiments, informing some constituents about lawmakers’ effectiveness and comparing their responses to those with the baseline level of information. We find that citizens, municipal officials, and voters demonstrate little knowledge of their elected officials’ lawmaking effectiveness. When presented with objective and credible information about lawmaking effectiveness, however, these groups express greater approval of more effective lawmakers. Effects were strongest among ideological moderates, but were even pronounced among partisans, who approved of effective representatives of the opposing party and disapproved of ineffective representatives from their own party. In contrast, the new information we provided had little effect on the subset of municipal officials who already had extensive prior contact with their representatives.

Are Bipartisan Lawmakers More Effective? (With Craig Volden)

We use the Bipartisanship Index (Lugar and Montgomery 2015) and Legislative Effectiveness Scores (Volden and Wiseman 2014) from the U.S. House of Representatives to explore whether bipartisan lawmakers are more effective at advancing their legislative proposals into law. Across numerous specifications we find that bipartisanship is positively related with lawmaking effectiveness. This relationship is conditional, however, on both expected and unexpected factors. For example, intuitively, bipartisanship is more important for minority-party members who wish to advance their sponsored bills than for majority-party members. Perhaps less intuitively, however, bipartisanship is at least as important for ideological extremists as it is for centrists, and bipartisanship is a more influential strategy for lawmakers in recent Congresses than for those in previous decades.

Government Standards, Activists, and the Prospects for Industry Self-Regulation (With Craig Volden)

We develop a game-theoretic model wherein a government establishes a standard for product quality while possessing extremely limited enforcement abilities, and a firm chooses whether to comply with, or exceed, the government quality standard. Following the firm’s product choice, an activist decides whether or not to exert costly effort to learn the firm’s choice and publicize that choice to the marketplace. Equilibrium results identify when the activist will play this informational role and when the firm will self-regulate in response to the activist’s threat. Moreover, we identify complementarities that exist between government standards and activist engagement. Governments lacking enforcement capacity can rely on informative activists, and those activists become more effective when the government advocates a high quality standard.