Who Has the Ear of Your Legislators and Why They Can’t Seem to Get Anything Done

We’re six months away from one of the most consequential midterm elections in modern history, and Americans are fed up with Congress. Politicians have gotten a bad rap throughout history, but today’s legislators are setting record lows in approval ratings and public trust. What gives? Why do they disappoint us so often? Are they really ignoring our needs and demands, or are we misunderstanding the challenges they face?

In this episode, Sarah Anderson shows that it’s a little of both: politicians don’t listen to all constituents equally, but they also can’t just snap their fingers and fulfill our wishes.

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PIPE* Workshop: Sarah Anderson, UCSB

Legislative solutions to society’s pressing problems usually require compromise, but we find that around a quarter of state legislators and many elected city officials reject proposals that move policy in their preferred direction and make them better off. The legislators who reject compromise proposals tend to be those who perceive that their voters – especially their primary voters – are likely to punish them for compromising. This threat of punishment also affects the voting behavior of members of Congress.