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Doubling Down: Inequality in Responsiveness and the Policy Preferences of Elected Officials

43 Pages Posted: 10 Apr 2014 Last revised: 9 Dec 2016

Matthew S. Mendez

Christian R. Grose

University of Southern California

Date Written: May 1, 2014


Is bias in responsiveness to constituents conditional on the policy preferences of elected officials? The scholarly conventional wisdom is that constituency groups who do not receive policy representation still obtain some level of responsiveness by legislators outside of the policy realm. In contrast, we present a theory of preference-induced responsiveness bias where constituency responsiveness by legislators is associated with legislator policy preferences. Elected officials who favor laws harming minority groups are also less likely to engage in non-policy responsiveness to minority groups. To test this proposition, we conducted a field experiment in 28 U.S. legislative chambers. Legislators were randomly assigned to receive messages from Latino, white, English-speaking, and Spanish-speaking constituents asking if a driver’s license is required for voting. If legislators supported voter identification laws, Latino constituents were less likely than white constituents to receive communications from legislators. There are significant normative theoretical implications regarding fairness and accessibility in the democratic process if elected officials fail to represent disadvantaged constituency groups in both policy and non-policy realms.

Keywords: voting rights, political science, legislator responsiveness, bias, voter ID, voter identification, legislatures, representation

Suggested Citation

Mendez, Matthew S. and Grose, Christian R., Doubling Down: Inequality in Responsiveness and the Policy Preferences of Elected Officials (May 1, 2014). USC CLASS Research Paper No. 14-17. Available at SSRN:

Christian R. Grose (Contact Author)

University of Southern California ( email )

Von KleinSmid Center, 327
Los Angeles, CA 90089
United States


No contact information is available for Matthew S. Mendez

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