Quarterly Journal of Political Science > Vol 6 > Issue 1

Can Learning Constituency Opinion Affect How Legislators Vote? Results from a Field Experiment

Daniel M. Butler, Department of Political Science, Yale University, USA, daniel.butler@yale.edu , David W. Nickerson, 2Department of Political Science, University of Notre Dame, USA, dnickers@nd.edu
Suggested Citation
Daniel M. Butler and David W. Nickerson (2011), "Can Learning Constituency Opinion Affect How Legislators Vote? Results from a Field Experiment", Quarterly Journal of Political Science: Vol. 6: No. 1, pp 55-83. http://dx.doi.org/10.1561/100.00011019

Publication Date: 23 Aug 2011
© 2011 D. M. Butler and D. W. Nickerson
Representation,  Lawmaking,  Public opinion,  Interest groups


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In this article:
Experiment During New Mexico's 2008 Special Legislative Session 
Expectations: The Heterogeneous Treatment Effect of Learning Public Opinion 


When legislators are uninformed about public opinion, does learning constituents' opinion affect how legislators vote? We conducted a fully randomized field experiment to answer this question. We surveyed 10,690 New Mexicans about the Governor's spending proposals for a special summer session held in the summer of 2008. District-specific survey results were then shared with a randomly selected half of the legislature. The legislators receiving their district-specific survey results were much more likely to vote in line with constituent opinion than those who did not. Our results suggest that legislators want to be more responsive to public opinion than they are in their natural state and can be if given solid information about constituent beliefs.