Representing the Preferences of Donors, Partisans, and Voters in the U.S. Senate

Source: Michael Barber, Brigham Young University, This Draft: February 4, 2015

Why are legislators so polarized? This paper addresses this question by investigating the degree of ideological congruence between senators and constituents on a unified scale. Specifically I measure congruence between legislators and four constituent subsets—donors, co-partisans, supporters, and registered voters. To estimate the preferences of these groups I use a large survey of voters and an original survey of campaign contributors that samples both in- and out-of-state contributors in the 2012 election cycle. I find that senators’ preferences reflect the preferences of the average donor better than any other group. Senators from both parties are slightly more ideologically extreme than the average co-partisan in their state and those who voted for them in 2012. Finally, senators’ preferences diverge dramatically from the preference of the average voter in their state. The degree of divergence is nearly as large as if voters were randomly assigned to a senator. These results show that in the case of the Senate, there is a dearth of congruence between constituents and senators—unless these constituents are those who write checks and attend fundraisers.
A New Study Shows How Donors Distort Democracy
Source: Sean McElwee, Dēmos, Policy Shop blog, February 18, 2015

It’s early, but arguably the most important paper of the year has already been released. The author, Michael Jay Barber, finds persuasive evidence that those who donate more than $200 (.22% of the population in 2014), wield more influence over our political system than anyone else…..