gay rights, politicians, and public opinion

Roughly speaking, political science research shows that politicians follow voter preferences, but there are some big exceptions. Turns out that gay rights is one of those big exceptions. A paper by Katherine Krimmel, Jeffrey Lax, and Justin Phillips of Columbia political science uses recent data and compares with roll call votes on voter views on gay rights. The conclusion from the comparison?

While there is sometimes a counter-majoritarian pro-gay bias, there is more often a much larger counter-majoritarian anti-gay bias. This anti-gay bias appears to have grown over time. The ideological direction of incongruence varies by legislator characteristics such as race. Black congressman are more likely to vote against their constituents’ preferences in favor of gay rights, relative to white (Democratic) congressman. This has important implications not only for congressional politics and democratic representation, but also judicial treatment of gay rights issues.

Bottom line: Gay rights are delayed because politicians are too scared to vote the way we want them to.

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Written by fabiorojas

May 14, 2012 at 12:01 am

4 Responses

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  1. I look forward to reading the paper but suspect that part of the story is about salience. My guess is that widespread support for gay rights is not salient but opposition is highly salient, so politicians guess that they lose more by attracting attention from the anti-rights crowd than they would gain by playing to the pro-rights crowd.



    May 14, 2012 at 12:23 pm

  2. Things change. TPM makes sort of the same point that Andew does about the GOP talking points memo, but that memo points towards a GOP decision to bow to general voter preferences on the gay marriage issue


    Jay Livingston

    May 14, 2012 at 3:39 pm

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