Public Opinion and Gay Rights: Do Members of Congress Follow Their Constituents' Preferences?

34 Pages Posted: 1 Aug 2011 Last revised: 8 Jul 2021

See all articles by Justin Phillips

Justin Phillips

Columbia University - Department of Political Science

Katherine Krimmel

Columbia University

Jeffrey R. Lax

Columbia University - Department of Political Science

Date Written: August 25,

Abstract

While gay and lesbian rights have become controversial, high-profile issues in contemporary American politics, scholars know relatively little about what drives federal policymaking in this area. In this paper, we consider a likely determinant of government action - public opinion - by investigating the relationship between the roll call votes of members of Congress on gay rights legislation issues and the policy-specific preferences of their constituents. For each state and congressional district, we use national-level surveys and advances in multi-level modeling to estimate the preferences of constituents on bills relating to same-sex marriage, hate crimes, employment non-discrimination, and military service. We then use these estimates to examine the effects of policy-specific opinion on the corresponding roll call votes. In addition to constituent opinion, our models of legislator behavior include variables that capture the partisan identification, ideology, and personal characteristics of individual lawmakers. We can thus evaluate the effect of constituent opinion relative to other potential and know determinants of roll call votes. Overall, our results will contribute to our understanding of democratic representation, policy responsiveness, and legislative behavior surrounding civil rights issues.

Keywords: gay, responsiveness, lesbian, gay rights, congress, roll call voting

Suggested Citation

Phillips, Justin and Krimmel, Katherine and Lax, Jeffrey R., Public Opinion and Gay Rights: Do Members of Congress Follow Their Constituents' Preferences? (August 25,). APSA 2011 Annual Meeting Paper, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1902167

Justin Phillips (Contact Author)

Columbia University - Department of Political Science ( email )

7th Floor, International Affairs Bldg.
420 W. 118th Street
New York, NY 10027
United States

Katherine Krimmel

Columbia University ( email )

Jeffrey R. Lax

Columbia University - Department of Political Science ( email )

MC3320
420 West 118th Street
New York, NY 10027
United States

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