• Gay Rights in Congress: Public Opinion and (Mis)Representation, with Jeffrey Lax and Kate Krimmel. Forthcoming. Public Opinion Quarterly.
      Public majorities have supported several gay rights policies for some time, yet Congress's response has been limited. We document and analyze this tension through dyadic analysis of the opinion-vote relationship on 23 roll-calls between 1993 and 2010, revealing a nuanced picture of responsiveness and incongruence. While constituent preferences influence white male Democrats, black lawmakers and white female Democratic lawmakers generally support gay rights and Republicans consistently oppose them, regardless of constituent preferences. Moreover, changes in constituent opinion typically fail to engender vote changes. This analysis suggests a mix of member persuasion and replacement may be necessary to achieve LGB rights gains in Congress.

  • Reform and Representation: A New Method Applied to Recent Electoral Changes, with Thad Kousser and Boris Shor. Forthcoming. Political Science Research and Methods.
      Can electoral reforms such as an independent redistricting commission and the top-two primary create conditions that lead to better legislative representation? We explore this question by presenting a new method for measuring a key indicator of representation---the congruence between a legislator's ideological position and the average position of her district's voters. Our novel approach combines two methods: the joint classification of voters and political candidates on the same ideological scale, along with multilevel regression and post-stratification to estimate the position of the average voter across many districts in multiple elections. After validating our approach, we use it to study the recent impact of reforms in California, showing that they did not bring their hoped-for effects.

  • Are Survey Respondents Lying About their Support for Same-Sex Marriage? Lessons from A Recent List Experiment, with and Jeffrey Lax and Alissa Stollwerk. 2016. Public Opinion Quarterly. 80(2): 510-33.
      Public opinion polls consistently show that a growing majority of Americans support same-sex marriage. Critics, however, raise the possibility that these polls are plagued by social desirability bias, and thereby may overstate public support for gay and lesbian rights. We test this proposition using a list experiment embedded in the 2013 Cooperative Congressional Election Study. List experiments afford respondents an anonymity that allows them to provide more truthful answers to potentially sensitive survey items. Our experiment finds no evidence that social desirability is affecting overall survey results. If there is social desirability in polling on same-sex marriage, it pushes in both directions. Indeed, our efforts provide new evidence that a national opinion majority favors same-sex marriage. To evaluate the robust- ness of our findings, we analyze a second list experiment, this one focusing on the inclusion of sexual orientation in employment nondiscrimination laws. Again we find no overall evidence of bias..

  • Spending Within Limits: Evidence from Municipal Fiscal Restraints, with Leah Brooks and Yosh Halberstam, 2016. National Tax Journal. 69(2): 315-52.
      This paper studies the role of a constitutional rule new to the literature---a limit placed by a city on its own ability to tax or spend. We find that such a limit exists in at least one in eight cities. After limit adoption, municipal revenue growth declines by 13 to 17 percent. Our results suggest that institutional constraints may be effective when representative government falls short of the median voter ideal. .

  • Polarizing the Electoral Connection: Partisan Representation in Supreme Court Confirmation Politics, with Jonathan Kastellec, Jeffrey Lax and Michael Malecki. 2015. The Journal of Politics. 77(3): 787-804.
      Do senators respond to the preferences of their state's median voter or only to the preferences of their co-partisans? We develop a method for estimating state-level public opinion broken down by partisanship so that we can distinguish between general and partisan responsiveness. We use these estimates to study responsiveness in the context of Senate confirmation votes on Supreme Court nominees. We find that senators more heavily weight their partisan base when casting such roll call votes. Indeed, when their state median voter and party median voter disagree, senators strongly favor the latter. This has significant implications for the study of legislative responsiveness and the role of public opinion in shaping the members of the nation's highest court. The methodological approach we develop allows more nuanced analyses of public opinion and its effects, as well as more finely grained studies of legislative behavior and policymaking.

  • The Power of American Governors, with Thad Kousser. 2012. Cambridge University Press.
      With limited authority over state lawmaking, but ultimate responsibility for the performance of government, how effective are governors in moving their programs through the legislature? This book advances new arguments what makes chief executives most successful and evaluates these arguments through original data. We argue that negotiations over the budget, on one hand, and policy bills, on the other, are driven by fundamentally different dynamics. We capture these dynamics in models informed by interviews with gubernatorial advisors, cabinet members, press secretaries, and governors themselves. A series of novel empirical analyses and rich case studies, demonstrate that governors can be powerful actors in the lawmaking process but that whether they are bargaining over the budget or policy shapes both how they play the game and how often they can win it. In addition to assessing the power of American governors, this book contributes broadly to our understanding of the determinants of executive power.

  • Overcoming Fiscal Gridlock: Institutions and Budget Bargaining, with Carl Klarner and Matt Muckler. 2012. The Journal of Politics. 74(4): 992-1009.
      We argue that the costs of bargaining failure are important determinants of legislative delay and gridlock. When these costs are high, elected officials have a greater incentive to reach legislative bargains, even if doing so means compromising on their policy objectives. We develop and evaluate this claim in the context of state budgeting, treating late budgets as examples of fiscal gridlock. Specifically, we argue that budgetary gridlock imposes political and private costs on lawmakers, the magnitudes of which are shaped by institutions and features of the political environment. Our expectations are tested and confirmed using an original dataset of the timing of budget adoption for all states over a forty-six year period. Though our investigation is set in the context of the states, we show that differences in the costs of bargaining failure can also account for variation in the patterns of budgetary delay across levels of government and (to a lesser extent) variation in fiscal gridlock within the federal government.

  • The Democratic Deficit in the States, with Jeffrey Lax. 2012. American Journal of Political Science. 56(1): 148-66.
      We study how well states translate public opinion into policy. Using national surveys and advances in subnational opinion estimation, we estimate state-level support for 39 policies across eight issue areas, including abortion, law enforcement, health care, and education. We show that policy is highly responsive to policy-specific opinion, even controlling for other influences. But we also uncover a striking ``democratic deficit'': policy is congruent with majority opinion only half the time. The analysis considers the influence of institutions, salience, partisan control of government, and interest groups on the magnitude and ideological direction of this democratic deficit. We find the largest influences to be legislative professionalization, term limits, and issue salience. Partisanship and interest groups affect the ideological balance of incongruence more than the aggregate degree thereof. Finally, policy is overresponsive to ideology and party---leading policy to be polarized relative to state electorates.

  • The Cabals of a Few or the Confusion of a Multitude: The Institutional Trade-off Between Representation and Governance, with Leah Brooks and Maxim Sinitsyn. 2011. American Economic Journal: Economic Policy. 3(1): 1-24.
      Our model illustrates how political institutions trade off between the competing goals of representation and governance, where governance is the responsiveness of an institution to a single pivotal voter. We use exogenous variation from the 30-year history of the federal Community Development Block Grant program to identify this trade-off. Cities with more representative governments - those with larger city councils - use more grant funds to supplement city revenues rather than implementing tax cuts, thereby moving policy further away from the governance ideal. In sum, more representative government is not without cost.

  • Public Opinion and Senate Confirmation of Supreme Court Nominees, with Jonathan Kastellec and Jeffrey Lax. 2010. The Journal of Politics. 72(3): 767-784.
      Does public opinion influence Supreme Court confirmation politics? We present the first direct evidence that state-level public opinion on whether a particular Supreme Court nominee should be confirmed affects the roll call votes of senators. Using national polls and applying recent advances in opinion estimation, we produce state-of-the-art estimates of public support for the confirmation of 10 recent Supreme Court nominees in all 50 states. We find that greater home-state public support does significantly and strikingly increase the probability that a senator will vote to approve a nominee, even controlling for other predictors of roll call voting. These results establish a systematic and powerful link between constituency opinion and voting on Supreme Court nominees. We connect this finding to larger debates on the role of majoritarianism and representation.

  • An Institutional Explanation for the Stickiness of Federal Grants, with Leah Brooks. 2010. Journal of Law Economics and Organization. 26(2): 243-264.
      Researchers have struggled to understand why federal block grants, contrary to economic theory, have a large stimulative effect on the spending of state and local governments. This article proposes and tests an institutional explanation for this effect. We argue that certain budgetary rules, by limiting the ability of subnational governments to respond to voter demands for increased spending, may systematically force lawmakers to under-provide public goods. When this occurs, governments are likely to treat grant revenue as a supplement to total expenditures and not return this money to voters in the form of a tax cut as suggested by existing theory. To evaluate our hypothesis, we use data on the Community Development Block Grant program and municipal tax and expenditure limitations. Results show that restrictive fiscal institutions significantly increase the stimulative power of federal grant revenue.

  • Public Opinion and Policy Responsiveness: Gay Rights in the States, with Jeffrey Lax. 2009. American Political Science Review 103(3): 367-85.
      We study the effects of policy-specific public opinion on state adoption of policies affecting gays and lesbians, and the factors that condition this relationship. Using national surveys and advances in opinion estimation, we create new estimates of state-level support for eight policies including civil unions and non-discrimination laws. We differentiate between responsiveness to opinion and congruence with opinion majorities. We find a high degree of responsiveness, controlling for interest group pressure and the ideology of voters and elected officials. Policy salience strongly increases the influence of policy-specific opinion (directly and relative to general voter ideology). There is, however, a surprising amount of non-congruence - for some policies, even clear super-majority support seems insufficient for adoption. When non-congruent, policy tends to be more conservative than desired by voters; that is, there is little pro-gay policy bias. State political institutions have no significant effect on policy responsiveness; legislative professionalization affects congruence.

  • Dividing the Spoils of Power: How Are the Benefits of Majority Party Status Distributed in State Legislatures? with Henry Kim. 2009. State Politics and Policy Quarterly 9(2):125-50.
      We assess the conditions under which majority status generates benefits for incumbent legislators and how these benefits are distributed among members of the majority party. We argue that majority status is valuable only in procedurally partisan chambers; that is, when the majority party monopolizes chamber leadership positions and control of the legislative agenda. Contrary to the existing literature, we also posit that these rewards should be distributed broadly across the majority party. To test our expectations, we utilize 10 recent transitions in the partisan control of U.S. state legislatures and data on campaign contributions. Consistent with our expectations, majority status is valuable, but only in procedurally partisan chambers. Furthermore, the premium in campaign contributions enjoyed by the majority party is primarily distributed to backbenchers, although top party leaders also benefit. These results provide important insights into the distribution of power and influence in U.S. state legislatures.

  • How Should We Estimate Public Opinion in the States? with Jeffrey Lax. 2009. American Journal of Political Science 53(1):107-121.
      We compare two approaches for estimating state-level public opinion: disaggregation by state of national surveys and a simulation approach using multilevel modeling of individual opinion and poststratification by population share. We present the first systematic assessment of the predictive accuracy of each and give practical advice about when and how each method should be used. To do so, we use an original data set of over 100 surveys on gay rights issues as well as 1988 presidential election data. Under optimal conditions, both methods work well, but multilevel modeling performs better generally. Compared to baseline opinion measures, it yields smaller errors, higher correlations, and more reliable estimates. Multilevel modeling is clearly superior when samples are smaller - indeed, one can accurately estimate state opinion using only a single large national survey. This greatly expands the scope of issues for which researchers can study subnational opinion directly or as an influence on policymaking.

  • Who Blinks First? Legislative Patience and Bargaining with Governors, with Thad Kousser. 2009. Legislative Studies Quarterly 34(1): 55-86.
      When legislators and governors clash over the size of American state government, what strategic factors determine who wins? Efforts to address this question have traditionally relied upon setter models borrowed from the congressional literature and have predicted legislative dominance. We offer an alternative simplification of state budget negotiations that follows the "staring match" logic captured by divide-the- dollar games. Our model predicts that governors will often be powerful but that professional legislatures can stand up to the executives when long legislative sessions give them the patience to endure a protracted battle over the size of the budget. In this article, we present our analysis of an original dataset comprising gubernatorial budget proposals and legislative enactments in the states from 1989 through 2004. The results indicate strong empirical support for our predictions.

  • Does Direct Democracy Weaken Party Government in the American States? 2008. State Politics and Policy Quarterly 8(2): 127-49.
      By placing lawmaking power directly in the hands of citizens, Progressive movement reformers hoped to undercut the ability of political parties to pursue their policy objectives. This article tests the expectations of reformers by examining whether direct democracy alters the ability of partisan legislative majorities and governors to shape the size of the U.S. state public sector. Using a large dataset, I estimate the determinants of state tax effort and compare across jurisdictions the effects of variables that measure the partisan control of government. The results demonstrate that while the partisanship of elected officials is an important predictor of tax effort in pure representative jurisdictions, the relationship between party and policy disappears among initiative states. This analysis not only adds to our understanding of U.S. state budgeting, but also suggests the widespread adoption of direct democracy as a possible explanation for the weak party effects observed in studies of state fiscal policy.

  • Evaluating the Effects of Direct Democracy on Public Policy: California’s Urban Growth Boundaries, with Elisabeth R. Gerber. 2005. American Politics Research 33(2): 310-330.
      This research addresses two interrelated questions about direct democracy: How does direct democracy affect public policy? And why do citizens and interest groups sometimes pursue policy change through direct democracy? We study these questions by testing for differences between urban growth boundaries (UGBs) that were enacted by city councils and by direct democracy in a large sample of California municipalities.We find that laws adopted at the ballot box are more extreme and are more difficult to amend or repeal. However, we also find that direct democracy does not result in less coherent or more fragmented policy regimes. In addition, we develop and test a model of the factors that lead political actors to pursue each strategy for policy change. Our results demonstrate that decisions to use the initiative process are largely a function of characteristics of local legislatures rather than citizen preferences for extreme policies.

  • Direct Democracy and Land Use Policy: Exchanging Public Goods for Development Rights, with Elisabeth R. Gerber. 2004. Urban Studies 41(2): 463-479.
      To counter the power of pro-development interests, growth opponents in American communities have increasingly turned to the institutions of direct democracy. This study analyses the effects of one type of direct democracy - voter requirements for new development - on municipal growth. Analysing data from a sample of California communities, we consider the impact of voter requirements on the land use process and outcomes. We find that - in general - voter requirements fail to stop new development; property owners and developers can and do adapt to the constraints created by these direct democracy institutions. We also find, however, that voter requirements change the land use process in important ways. Specifically, they change the way developers interact with interest groups in the community and force developers to compensate current residents for enduring some of the negative aspects of growth.

  • Development Ballot Measures, Interest Group Endorsements, and the Political Geography of Growth Preferences, with Elisabeth R. Gerber. 2003. American Journal of Political Science 47(4): 625-639.
      In response to rapid population and economic growth, many communities have turned to voter initiatives to resolve their land use disputes. We find that despite strong public concern about growth, voters often support measures that allow or encourage new development. We consider the sources of this support by analyzing patterns of voting on a range of prodevelopment ballot initiatives. These initiatives provide a valuable opportunity to understand how economic self-interest, geography, interest group endorsements, and public goods affect citizen support for development policies. We find that interest group endorsements significantly increase public support for new development. These endorsements help voters evaluate the personal impact of complex development proposals and allow voters to behave in ways that reflect a high degree of sophistication.

  • Growth Management and Housing Prices: The Case of Portland, Oregon, with Eban Goodstein. 2000. Contemporary Economic Policy 18(3): 334-44.
      Portland, Oregon, is well known for its relatively unique urban growth boundary (UGB), a very tight form of zoning designed to control sprawl. The UGB has recently been criticized for raising housing prices. From a theoretical perspective, the UGB will put upward pressure on land and thus housing prices, but the magnitude of this effect is uncertain. Increasing density should substitute for higher land prices, partially offsetting any reduction in the supply of housing. In addition, at any given moment, speculative factors influence housing price levels in bull markets such as the one Portland has been experiencing. This article presents an econometric analysis assessing these conflicting effects. We find the UGB has created upward pressure on housing prices, but the effect is relatively small in magnitude.