David Broockman has a new paper exploring the views of nearly one thousand incumbent state legislators regarding electoral accountability. Broockman’s findings suggest that these elected officials see a lot of scope for nonsense and delusion in their relationships with their constituents.
For example, only 15 percent of state legislators agreed that voters “usually know who in government to blame” when they “don’t like a particular public policy.” If voters don’t know who to blame, why not shut down the government?
Are you surprised that elected officials are ideologically “polarized”? Only 42 percent of state legislators said that “Moderate candidates and politicians win significantly more votes.” Many expressed doubt that most voters “decide who to vote for based on the issues” (38 percent in general elections, 46 percent in primaries).
Do politicians see the electorate as ”a rational god of vengeance and of reward,” as Key colorfully put it? Not so much. Almost 60 percent agreed that “voters usually base their choices on only very recent events,” and 35 percent agreed that voters “sometimes decide whether to vote for incumbents based on things completely unrelated to politics, like whether their favorite football team recently won a game.”The problem is not just with the voters, however. As we point out in the textbook, state governments are not especially transparent and the media provide uneven (and diminishing) coverage of state government -- especially where state capitals are isolated from population centers.