Butler and Nickerson on Constituency Opinion and Legislators’ Vote (Quarterly Journal of Political Science)

A recent article, “Can Learning Constituency Opinion Affect How Legislators Vote? Results from a Field Experiment,” by Dan Butler and David Nickerson (University of Notre Dame) appeared in an issue of the Quarterly Journal of Political Science.

Abstract: 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.