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Sample size: 2059
Field period: 06/28/2018-10/15/2018
Research Question: How does information about majority agenda-setting and their ability to ignore alternative bills affect public support for legislation and the institutions that enact policy.
H1: Information about majority agenda-setting and ignored alternatives will decrease support for the legislation and the institutions that enact it.
H2: If fairness concerns are at play, information about majority agenda-setting and ignored alternatives will reduce support among both majority-party and minority-party voters, and for both minority and bipartisan ignored alternatives.
H3: If partisan social identity concerns are at play, information about majority agenda-setting and ignored alternatives will (a) not affect support among majority-party voters, but (b) reduce support among minority-party voters, and with larger effects when the majority ignores a minority party alternative than a bipartisan alternative.
Vignette style survey experiment on energy policy where control includes information about the bill the majority pursued and the presence of partisan conflict on the bill. Treatments include additional information about an alternative bill that did not receive a vote and legislators' frustration over majority agenda control. Randomization of majority party (Democrats or Republicans), control/ignore bipartisan-supported alternative/ignore minority-supported alternative, and, when Republicans are the majority, whether the ignored alternative is green energy or the gas tax.
Support for bill, confidence in Congress, fairness of the legislative process, feeling thermometer of majority party
Information about how agenda-setting ignores other alternatives significantly reduces support for the bill passed by the majority party (-0.13, p<0.001 for the bipartisan alternative; -0.14, p<0.001 for the minority alternative). These are substantively meaningful effects, corresponding to a shift in evaluations of the bill of more than 40 percent of a standard deviation. Agenda-setting also reduces confidence in Congress and evaluations of the majority party, though the magnitude of these effects are smaller (only 13 to 16 percent of a standard deviation for Congress; 15 percent of the standard deviation for the majority party). Respondents also view the legislative process as significantly less fair when they learn that the majority party ignored other alternatives; an effect that is large in magnitude (54 to 55 percent of a standard deviation) and similar for the bipartisan and minority alternatives (-0.15, p<0.001 for each).
Among partisans we focus on interaction terms between each ignored alternative and whether respondents align with the minority party. We find only limited evidence that evaluations differ between majority and minority-party respondents. Information about the majority ignoring a bipartisan alternative reduces support for the bill by 38 percent of a standard deviation, and information about ignoring the minority alternative reduces support by 30 percent of a standard deviation. While minority-party voters are less supportive of the bill overall, neither interaction with the ignored alternative is significant. Among partisans, we see less evidence that information about ignored alternatives shapes evaluations of Congress or the parties. In two models we observe a couple of significant interactions – minority-party voters respond more negatively to Congress when the majority ignores a bipartisan bill, and minority-party voters view the legislative process as significantly less fair when the majority party ignores a minority bill. However, even majority-party voters respond negatively to agenda-setting in evaluations of the bill and the legislative process. For instance, majority-party voters reduce their evaluations of the fairness of the process by a third of a standard deviation when learning that the majority ignored a minority sponsored alternative, and nearly half a standard deviation when learning their party ignored a bipartisan alternative.
Manuscript includes two other studies as well.
Paper presented at the Annual Meeting of the Midwest Political Science Association (2018). Manuscript currently has an R&R and has just be re-submitted.