Incremental Democracy: The Policy Effects of the Partisan Composition of State Government

67 Pages Posted: 29 Sep 2015 Last revised: 22 Nov 2016

Devin Caughey

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) - Department of Political Science

Chris Warshaw

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) - Department of Political Science

Yiqing Xu

University of California, San Diego

Date Written: September 23, 2016

Abstract

How much does it matter whether Democrats or Republicans control the government? Unless the two parties converge completely, election outcomes should have some impact on policy, but the existing evidence for policy effects of party control is surprisingly weak and inconsistent. We bring clarity to this question, using regression-discontinuity and dynamic panel analyses to estimate the effects of party control of state legislatures and governorships on a new annual measure of state policy liberalism. We find that throughout the 1936-2014 period, electing Democrats has led to more liberal policies, but that in recent decades the policy effects of party control have approximately doubled in magnitude. We present evidence that this increase is at least partially explained by the ideological divergence of the parties' officeholders and electoral coalitions. At the same time, we also show that party effects remain substantively modest, paling relative to policy differences across states.

Keywords: policy, partisan, state, government, control

Suggested Citation

Caughey, Devin and Warshaw, Chris and Xu, Yiqing, Incremental Democracy: The Policy Effects of the Partisan Composition of State Government (September 23, 2016). MIT Political Science Department Research Paper No. 2015-24. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2666691 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2666691

Devin Caughey

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) - Department of Political Science ( email )

77 Massachusetts Ave.
E53-470
Cambridge, MA 02139-4301
United States
6173244085 (Phone)

HOME PAGE: http://www.devincaughey.com

Chris Warshaw (Contact Author)

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) - Department of Political Science ( email )

77 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02139
United States

Yiqing Xu

University of California, San Diego ( email )

9500 Gilman Drive
#0521
La Jolla, CA 92093-0521
United States

HOME PAGE: http://yiqingxu.org/

Paper statistics

Downloads
297
Rank
81,550
Abstract Views
1,195