Devin Caughey - American Politics Speaker Series


Friday, March 6, 2020, 9:00am to 10:30am


K262, CGIS Knafel Building, 1737 Cambridge St.

Devin Caughey, MIT

"Dynamic Democracy: Citizens, Politicians, and Policymaking in the American States"


We examine the dynamic interplay between mass preferences, party control, and policymaking in the American states over the past eight decades. We find that the state policymaking responds sluggishly to mass preferences, and in the short term state policies are often incongruent with majority opinion. Over time, however, congruence between individual policies and majority opinion gradually increases, and incremental responsiveness ultimately cumulates into a powerful cross-sectional association between mass and policy conservatism. In short, state governments are broadly responsive to their publics, but mainly over the long term. We also find that despite its clear (and increasing) effects on state policymaking, party control of state offices is not the dominant mediator of the opinion–policy relationship. Rather, politicians from both parties adapt to general shifts in state-level opinion, which they in turn translate into policy shifts. We identify important differences in responsiveness by era, region, and issue domain, but find little evidence that of particular institutions or reforms that enhance responsiveness.

This talk is free and open to the public.

The  American Politics Speaker Series (APSS)  invites speakers from outside Harvard to present research in American politics. Sponsored by the Center for American Political Studies, the Harvard Department of Government, and Harvard Kennedy School, the series is co-organized by Profs. Jon Rogowski, Ben Schneer, and Maya Sen. 


See also: Seminar