Doubling Down: Inequality in Responsiveness and the Policy Preferences of Elected Officials

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Is bias in responsiveness to constituents conditional on the policy preferences of elected officials? The scholarly conventional wisdom is that constituency groups who do not receive policy representation still obtain some level of responsiveness by legislators outside of the policy realm. In contrast, we present a theory of preference-induced responsiveness bias where constituency responsiveness by legislators is associated with legislator policy preferences. Elected officials who favor laws that could disproportionately impact minority groups are also less likely to engage in non-policy responsiveness to minority groups. We conducted a field experiment in 28 U.S. legislative chambers. Legislators were randomly assigned to receive messages from Latino and white constituents. If legislators supported voter identification laws, Latino constituents were less likely to receive constituency communications from their legislators. There are significant implications regarding fairness in the democratic process when elected officials fail to represent disadvantaged constituency groups in both policy and non-policy realms.


Doubling Down: Inequality in Responsiveness and the Policy Preferences of Elected Officials