Political Representation Among the Lower Class

Posted on August 28, 2011. Filed under politics, social-justice

Economic Inequality and Political Representation: Here’s some light reading for the weekend.

I examine the differential responsiveness of U.S. senators to the preferences of wealthy, middleclass, and poor constituents. My analysis includes broad summary measures of senators ‘ voting behavior as well as specific votes on the minimum wage, civil rights, government spending, and abortion. In almost every instance, senators appear to be considerably more responsive to the opinions of affluent constituents than to the opinions of middle-class constituents, while the opinions of constituents in the bottom third of the income distribution have no apparent statistical effect on their senators ‘ roll call votes

It was interesting. The study is from 2005, and he examines voting behavior from the early 90s (not sure why that is – are his conclusions still relevant 20 years later?). I found it interesting that both Republican and Democratic senators were guilty of ignoring the lower class.

The author is pretty humble about the results, but the trend was so clear as to be unavoidable:

In the meantime, despite the significant limitations of my data and the crudeness of my analysis, the sheer magnitude of the disparities in representation documented here must be troubling to anyone who accepts Dahl’s stipulation that “a key characteristic of a democracy is the continued responsiveness of the government to the preferences of its citizens, considered as political equals.”

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