Quarterly Journal of Political Science > Vol 14 > Issue 1

How Private Politics Alters Legislative Responsiveness

James N. Druckman, Northwestern University, USA, druckman@northwestern.edu , Julia Valdes, University of California, USA, juliacvaldes@gmail.com
Suggested Citation
James N. Druckman and Julia Valdes (2019), "How Private Politics Alters Legislative Responsiveness", Quarterly Journal of Political Science: Vol. 14: No. 1, pp 115-130. http://dx.doi.org/10.1561/100.00018066

Publication Date: 11 Jan 2019
© 2019 J. N. Druckman and J. Valdes
Legislatures,  Campaigns,  Elections,  Interest groups,  Political participation,  Public opinion,  Public policy,  Representation
Private politicsrepresentationresponsivenesspolicy-makingstate legislatorsinterest groups


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In this article:
Public versus Private Politics 
Survey Experiment 


Private politics occurs when citizens and activists seek policy change outside the democratic legislative process. This includes boycotting companies and/or buycotting products so as to influence market practices (e.g., increased wages, more attention to environmental impact). The rise of private politics complicates our understanding of democratic responsiveness — legislators may be less incentivized to respond to citizens' preferences. This occurs because legislators receive less credit for policy change and may view themselves as less necessary for policy-making. We present a survey experiment with state legislators to explore how legislators react to private politics. We find that a constituent communication that references private politics vitiates legislative responsiveness. In particular, Republicans become less likely to say they would take policy action or move their positions. Moreover, reference to private politics decreases the likelihood of constituent engagement among both Republican and Democratic legislators. Our results accentuate the importance of considering private politics in conversations about how democracies work.