Maybe shameless is a bit strong; disseminating your research is important in academia after all. But Josh and I (along with our colleague at Florida, Dan Smith), have a paper that was published today in American Politics Research (see here for the pdf). The title is “Shirking the Initiative? The Effects of Statewide Ballot Measures on Congressional Roll Call Behavior.”
In this paper we ask whether ballot measures affect the behavior of members of Congress. We examine ballot measures three issues–gay marriage, campaign finance, and minimum wage. Using roll call votes that lie in the same issue space, we hypothesized that the signal provided by the passage or failure of ballot measures induce lawmakers to vote in line with their constituents. That is, the precise information provided by a ballot measure would reduce policy “shirking” by members of Congress (where public opinion polls and a lawmaker’s “intuition” are less precise measures of public sentiment). We find statistical evidence that this hypothesis holds, but only for members of the House (we find no evidence in the Senate). Senators are, after all, insulated from public opinion to a greater degree than members of the House. One of the additional findings we report in this paper is that representatives respond to the signal provided by their median constituent. In other words, we find that it matters little if the ballot measure passed with 70% of the vote or 51% of the vote–both reveal to a member of Congress where at least half of their constituency stands.