Accountability in State Legislatures (Chicago Studies in American Politics) (Paperback)
A troubling portrait of democracy in US state legislatures.
State legislatures hold tremendous authority over key facets of our lives, ranging from healthcare to marriage to immigration policy. In theory, elections create incentives for state legislators to produce good policies. But do they?
Drawing on wide-ranging quantitative and qualitative evidence, Steven Rogers offers the most comprehensive assessment of this question to date, testing different potential mechanisms of accountability. His findings are sobering: almost ninety percent of American voters do not know who their state legislator is; over one-third of incumbent legislators run unchallenged in both primary and general elections; and election outcomes have little relationship with legislators’ own behavior.
Rogers’s analysis of state legislatures highlights the costs of our highly nationalized politics, challenging theories of democratic accountability and providing a troubling picture of democracy in the states.
"Rogers offers the most comprehensive account of state legislative elections, in all their diverse aspects, yet attempted. He documents the fragility of the 'electoral connection' at the state level and thereby raises troubling questions about the health of American democracy. Richly empirical and full of original and fascinating findings, it marks a major advance in the study of its subject."
— Gary Jacobson | University of California, San Diego
“Do elections hold state legislators to account? The answer is ‘yes’ but a qualified ‘yes,’ according to Steven Rogers. Using an impressive array of data, Rogers analyzes this question from every conceivable angle. Every student of state legislatures, state elections, and state politics should read this book—if only to find out why the author recommends all states should be like Nebraska in having a unicameral legislature.”
— Virginia Gray | University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill
"For every Member of Congress in the U.S., there are almost fourteen state legislators, and American states make critical policy decisions from abortion and education to guns and taxes. Yet this book offers something exceedingly rare: a comprehensive study of state legislative elections. A model of conceptual clarity and analytic rigor, Rogers' scholarship makes a compelling case for the limits of accountability in state legislative elections."
— Daniel Hopkins | University of Pennsylvania
"Understanding the relationship between elections and state policymakers’ decisions is increasingly vital, and Accountability in State Legislatures is a major contribution to the growing scholarship on how state democratic institutions operate. Rogers’ exhaustively researched analysis is essential reading for learning about the factors that determined who gets elected and how voters do—or do not—hold them accountable.”
— Tim Storey | National Conference of State Legislatures