The Journal of Politics

Published by University of Chicago Press

Online ISSN: 1468-2508


Print ISSN: 0022-3816


Health Politics in the 1980s
  • Article

February 1986


26 Reads

Alice Sardell


Harvey Catchen

Inalienable Rights and Locke's Argument for Limited Government: Political Implications of a Right to Suicide

February 1984


59 Reads

This essay argues, contrary to some interpretations, that Locke does indeed teach that men have inalienable rights, i.e., rights which they cannot irrevocably consent away even in civil society. This inalienable rights teaching is contained in his argument that suicide is absolutely forbidden by nature. Furthermore, through the prohibition of suicide, Locke shows the limits of the individual's right to consent, and this prohibition is the indispensable logical and moral basis of (1) his argument against slavery, (2) his defense of the right of revolution, (3) his argument that men have some duty to care about their fellow men, and (4) his teaching that the legitimate powers of government are limited. This interpretation defends Locke against the harshly critical treatment which is now common. In particular, his teaching about freedom is argued to be superior to the currently influential teaching that one is free to do as one wishes with oneself, limited only by the equal right of others to do the same.

Friendships Moderate an Association Between a Dopamine Gene Variant and Political Ideology

October 2010


160 Reads

Scholars in many fields have long noted the importance of social context in the development of political ideology. Recent work suggests that political ideology also has a heritable component, but no specific gene variant or combination of variants associated with political ideology have so far been identified. Here, we hypothesize that individuals with a genetic predisposition toward seeking out new experiences will tend to be more liberal, but only if they are embedded in a social context that provides them with multiple points of view. Using data from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health, we test this hypothesis by investigating an association between self-reported political ideology and the 7R variant of the dopamine receptor D4 gene (DRD4), which has previously been associated with novelty seeking. Among those with DRD4-7R, we find that the number of friendships a person has in adolescence is significantly associated with liberal political ideology. Among those without the gene variant, there is no association. This is the first study to elaborate a specific gene-environment interaction that contributes to ideological self-identification, and it highlights the importance of incorporating both nature and nurture into the study of political preferences.

The Constitution in The Laboratory: Recombinant DNA Research as "Free Expression"

February 1981


8 Reads

Contemporary scientific investigations have brought about extraordinary breakthroughs in our understanding of both physical and biological phenomena. However, these research modes also pose risks of uncertain dimension, and they have been, therefore, apt targets for government regulation. Addressing especially recombinant DNA procedures, because they constitute the prime example of such innovation, this essay argues that constitutional freedoms extend to laboratory inquiry, covering, to greater or lesser extent, various aspects of such research.

State Implementation Effort and Federal Regulatory Policy: The Case of Occupational Safety and Health

February 1985


17 Reads

The states play pivotal roles in implementing the protective regulatory policies of the federal government. In this capacity they often profoundly shape who gets what from these programs. A well-rounded theory of the policy process requires precise specification of why some states try harder than others to implement Washington's regulatory policies. This article tests four important theories (wealth, partisan, group, and organizational search) in an attempt to explain state implementation effort under one major regulatory program—the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970. State participation and enforcement vigor comprise the two major dimensions of implementation effort examined. The theories prove the most useful in explaining enforcement vigor. In this regard, a path analysis discloses that while wealth and interest group theories contribute to understanding, organizational-search theory is the best predictor of enforcement vigor. Partisan theory predicts the least. The study sheds light on a neglected aspect of regulatory policy and helps lay the cornerstone for a general theory of state implementation effort.

Innovation and Reinvention in State Policymaking: Theory and the Evolution of Living Will Laws

September 1991


66 Reads

Most research on the diffusion of policy innovations focuses on the date of adoption and its correlates. This research examines an aspect of innovation which has received little attention: policy reinvention during the initial diffusion process and through amendment. The central proposition is that even though a set of laws or policies may be grouped into one broad, general category, states create substantively different policies through reinvention, which has important consequences for groups affected by the legislation. Hypotheses concerning the relationship between date of adoption and policy content and the effect of particular controversial policy provisions on reinventions are examined. The study has general implications for the study of the diffusion of innovations and policy in state politics.

"Targeted" Advertising and Voter Turnout: An Experimental Study of the 2000 Presidential Election

February 2004


123 Reads

Scholars disagree whether negative advertising demobilizes or stimulates the electorate. We use an experiment with over 10,200 eligible voters to evaluate the two leading hypotheses of negative political advertising. We extend the analysis to examine whether advertising differentially impacts the turnout of voter subpopulations depending on the advertisement’s message. In the short term, we find no evidence that exposure to negative advertisements decreases turnout and little that suggests it increases turnout. Any effect appears to depend upon the message of the advertisement and the characteristics of the viewer. In the long term, we find little evidence that the information contained in the treatment groups’ advertisements is sufficient to systematically alter turnout.

Accountability and Local Elections: Rethinking Retrospective Voting

February 2007


478 Reads

For too long, research on retrospective voting has fixated on how economic trends affect incumbents' electoral prospects in national and state elections. Hundreds of thousands of elections in the United States occur at the local level and have little to do with unemployment or inflation rates. This paper focuses on the most prevalent: school boards. Specifically, it examines whether voters hold school board members accountable for the performance of their schools. The 2000 elections reveal considerable evidence that voters evaluate school board members on the basis of student learning trends. During the 2002 and 2004 school board elections, however, when media (and by extension public) attention to testing and accountability systems drifted, measures of achievement did not influence incumbents' electoral fortunes. These findings, we suggest, raise important questions about both the scope conditions of retrospective voting models and the information voters rely upon when evaluating incumbents.

Politics, Economics, and Politics Again
  • Article
  • Full-text available

July 1991


41 Reads

This essay reconsiders the meaning of politics. It argues that economics offers theory and language that can contribute to the understanding and fulfillment of political life by facilitating analysis of the public interest. However, economics does not provide an escape from political disagreement, whether based on inevitable differences of interest or of belief, or on self-serving efforts to advance one cause at the expense of another. As a language of discourse, economics is shown to be compatible with a broader conception of human nature than is sometimes claimed by its practitioners or acknowledged by its critics.

Unanimous Consent Agreements: Going Along in the Senate

June 1985


122 Reads

In recent decades, U.S. senators have made increasing use of complex unanimous consent agreements (UCAs) which preclude filibusters by setting a time for a final vote on legislation and which often specify permissible amendments and their proposers. Because of the numerous dilatory tactics permitted in the absence of a UCA, controversial legislation is often doomed unless such an agreement is reached. But in spite of correspondingly strong temptations for opponents to object to unanimous consent requests (UCRs), consent is prevalent. This paper addresses the puzzle with a decision-theoretic model that yields a rather stringent condition for objection to a UCR. Two cases of objection in the Senate are analyzed and found to support hypotheses derived from the model. A concluding discussion considers UCAs as endogenous institutions that permit Senate leaders to induce behavior that appears cooperative but is nonetheless consistent with individual utility maximization.

Elections, Protest, and Alternation of Power

February 2013


125 Reads

Despite many examples to the contrary, most models of elections assume that rules determining the winner will be followed. We present a model where elections are solely a public signal of the incumbent popularity, and citizens can protests against leaders that do not step down from power. In this minimal setup, rule-based alternation of power as well as "semi-democratic" alternation of power independent of electoral rules can both arise in equilibrium. Compliance with electoral rules requires there to be multiple equilibria in the protest game, where the electoral rule serves as a focal point spurring protest against losers that do not step down voluntarily. Such multiplicity is possible when elections are informative and citizens not too polarized. Extensions to the model are consistent with the facts that protests often center around accusations of electoral fraud and that in the democratic case turnover is peaceful while semi-democratic turnover often requires citizens to actually take to the streets.

The Polarization of American Politics

May 1983


687 Reads

Elected officials in the United States appear to represent relatively extreme support coalitions rather than the interests of middle-of-the-road voters. This contention is supported by analysis of variance of liberal–conservative positions in the United States Senate from 1959 to 1980. Within both the Democratic and the Republican parties, there is considerable variation in liberal–conservative positions, but two senators from the same state and party tend to be very similar. In contrast, senators from the same state but from different parties are highly dissimilar, suggesting that each party represents an extreme support coalition in the state. Moreover, the distribution of senators is now consistent with the hypothesis that, in the long run, both parties have an equal chance of winning any seat in the Senate. This result suggests that there is now competition between equally balanced but extreme support coalitions throughout most of the United States.

Delegation and Positive-Sum Bureaucracies

January 2007


25 Reads

I develop a formal model of bureaucratic policymaking to investigate why a legislature would choose to delegate authority to a bureaucratic agency whose actions can be controlled, ex post, by an executive with divergent policy preferences. Because the executive and legislature might find different policies to be salient to their constituencies, I demonstrate that executive review of agency rulemaking can benefit both branches of government, relative to legislative delegation without the possibility of such review. In trying to undermine the impacts of executive oversight, agencies propose policies that could benefit the legislature were the executive to choose not to intervene in agency policymaking. Likewise, if the executive does intervene, executive review allows him to implement a policy more desirable than absent such review. This joint-desirability of executive review is more likely when legislative and executive policy preferences are relatively aligned, and when legislative and agency policy preferences are relatively divergent. The broader social welfare consequences of executive review depend on the relative effectiveness of the executive's oversight of agency policymaking. These results provide insight for why mediating lawmaking institutions such as the Office of Information and Regulatory Analysis (OIRA) continue to survive in a separation of powers system despite their potential to advantage one branch of government at the expense of the other.

Cognition and Strategy: A Deliberation Experiment

January 2007


39 Reads

A theory of deliberation must provide a plausible account both of individuals? choices to speak or to listen and of how they reinterpret their own views in the aftermath of deliberation. We describe a game-theoretic laboratory experiment in which subjects with diverse interests and information choose to speak or to listen and, after updating their beliefs, vote over a common outcome. An important feature of our strategic setting is that not receiving a specific communication is sometimes just as informative as receiving it. We analyze subjects? deliberative choices and the relationship between these choices, subjects? initial positions and arguments, and individual cognition. Our evidence shows that, although subjects behave instrumentally, their behavior reveals the existence of a cognitive hierarchy defined by differing abilities to grasp the strategic implications of different kinds of information. We trace the consequences of these underlying cognitive differences for individual deliberative choices and for the informativeness of deliberation.

Sophisticated Voting in Congress: A Reconsideration

February 1988


72 Reads

A recent development in the theory of voting is the possibility that agendas over which legislators may engage in sophisticated voting can place legislators in awkward situations. Consequently, some legislators may choose not to vote sophisticatedly. Roll-call votes on the school construction bill of 1956 are cited as support for this "position-taking" hypothesis (Denzau, Riker, and Shepsle 1985). This article questions the relevance of classical sophisticated voting theory in general and the position-taking extension in particular. First, the body of rules and precedents in the U.S. Congress make it easy to avoid opportunities for sophisticated voting. Second, when rare cases arise in which agendas do permit identifiable sophisticated voting, uncertainty makes the application of perfect-information theory inappropriate. Reconsideration of some heretofore overlooked procedural facts surrounding the school aid bill, as well as its distributive content, yields an alternative approach: characterization of the situation as a game with incomplete information and extraction of hypotheses that are testable without employing the ad hoc assumptions required in previous accounts. Empirical analysis supports our model, accentuates the limitations of previous voting theory, and illustrates the interplay of information and procedure in legislative politics.

Table 1 : Institutional Requirements for Passing Constitutional Amendments
Figure 2. Comparisons of Attitudes and Outcomes by State Type  
Table 2 : Legislative and Voter Requirements in Non-DCI States
Why State Constitutions Differ in Their Treatment of Same-Sex Marriage

August 2009


109 Reads

Arthur Lupia


Yanna Krupnikov


Adam Seth Levine




Some states treat a same-sex marriage as legally equal to a marriage between a man and a woman. Other states prohibit legal recognition of same-sex marriages in their constitutions. In every state that has a constitutional restriction against same-sex marriage, the amendment was passed by a popular vote. The conventional wisdom about allowing voter participation in such decisions is that they yield constitutional outcomes that reflect attitude differences across states. We reexamine the attitude-amendment relationship and find it to be weaker than expected. In particular, we show that states vary in the costs they impose on constituencies that desire constitutional change. Some states impose very low costs (i.e., a simple majority of voters is sufficient for change). Other states impose very high costs (i.e., substantial legislative and voter supermajoriries are requires). We find that variations in the legal status of same-sex marriage across US states is better explained by these variations in costs than they are by differences in public opinion. Our method yields an improved explanation of why states differ in their constitutional treatment of same-sex marriage today. Our findings have distinct implications for people who wish to understand and/or change the future status of same-sex couples in state constitutions.

Common Interests or Common Polities? Reinterpreting the Democratic Peace

January 1995


540 Reads

The central claim of a rapidly growing literature in international relations is that members of pairs of democratic states are much less likely to engage each other in war or in serious disputes short of war than are members of other pairs of states. Our analysis does not support this claim. Instead, we find that the dispute rate between democracies is lower than is that of other country pairs only after World War II. Before 1914 and between the World Wars, there is no difference between the war rates of members of democratic pairs of states and those of members of other pairs of states. We also find that there is a higher incidence of serious disputes short of war between democracies than between nondemocracies before 1914. We attribute this cross-temporal variation in dispute rates to changes in patterns of common and conflicting interests across time. We use alliances as an indicator of common interests to show that cross-temporal variation in dispute rates conforms to variations in interest patterns for two of the three time periods in our sample.

The Determinant of Success of Special Interests in Redistributive Politics

December 1994


121 Reads

We construct a locational model of majority voting when competing parties offer special favours to interest groups. Each group's membership is heterogeneous in its affinities for the two parties. Individuals face a trade-off between party affinity and their own transfer receipts.The model is sufficiently general to yield two often-discussed but competing theories as special cases. If the parties are equally effective in delivering transfers to any group, the outcome of the process conforms to the `swing voter' theory: both parties woo the politically-central groups most responsive to economic favours. If groups have party affiliations and each party is more effective in delivering favours to its own support group, we can get the `machine politics' outcome, where each party dispenses favour to its core support group. But in some circumstances the machine may find it advantageous to tax its core and use the proceeds to win the support of other voters.

Table 1 reports descriptive statistics for a selected set of these characteristics. The
Table 2 : Democratic Candidates' Vote Shares in 2006 and 2002 in Precincts Just Above versus Just Below the Income Threshold for Receiving Mail in 2006
Table 3 : Other Characteristics of Precincts Just Above and Just Below Income Threshold for Receiving Mail in 2006
Table 4 presents the point estimates and standard errors for these estimates. 7 It indicates that there is about an 11.1 percentage point difference in mail concentration above the income threshold relative to below. The difference point estimate of 1.6
Table 4 : Fitted Democratic Candidates' Vote Shares in 2006 and 2002 from Local Linear Regression at the Income Threshold
The Persuasive Effects of Direct Mail: A Regression Discontinuity Based Approach

August 2008


259 Reads

During the contest for Kansas attorney general in 2006, an organization sent out 6 pieces of mail criticizing the incumbent's conduct in office. We exploit a discontinuity in the rule used to select which households received the mailings to identify the causal effect of mail on vote choice and voter turnout. We find these mailings had both a statistically and politically significant effect on the challenger's vote share. Our estimates suggest that a ten percentage point increase in the amount of mail sent to a precinct increased the challenger's vote share by approximately three percentage points. Furthermore, our results suggest that the mechanism for this increase was persuasion rather than mobilization.

The Efficacy of Registration Drives

July 1984


73 Reads

This paper compares the voting rates of those who are enrolled by registration drives in comparison to the rates of those who register themselves. The central question is whether the return from registration drives in terms of the number of voters they yield is worth the effort? In addition, the paper looks at the demographic profile of the group-registered voters to discover how they differ from self-registered individuals. The data set consists of 108,653 individuals in Los Angeles County who registered between the 1980 and 1982 elections. The results indicate that 41% of those registered by registration drives actually voted as compared to 57% of the self-registered. It also appears that the group-registered voters are younger and more frequently minority.

Top-cited authors