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Accountability in State Legislatures

A troubling portrait of democracy in US state legislatures.

State legislatures hold tremendous authority over key facets of our lives, ranging from healthcare to marriage to immigration policy. In theory, elections create incentives for state legislators to produce good policies. But do they?

Drawing on wide-ranging quantitative and qualitative evidence, Steven Rogers offers the most comprehensive assessment of this question to date, testing different potential mechanisms of accountability. His findings are sobering: almost ninety percent of American voters do not know who their state legislator is; over one-third of incumbent legislators run unchallenged in both primary and general elections; and election outcomes have little relationship with legislators’ own behavior.

Rogers’s analysis of state legislatures highlights the costs of our highly nationalized politics, challenging theories of democratic accountability and providing a troubling picture of democracy in the states.

304 pages | 41 line drawings, 47 tables | 6 x 9

Chicago Studies in American Politics

Political Science: American Government and Politics, Political Behavior and Public Opinion

Table of Contents

Chapter 1. Introduction
Chapter 2. Legislators Not Seeking Reelection: You Can’t Fire Me If I Quit
Chapter 3. Challengers in State Legislative Elections: A Lack of Choice
Chapter 4. Who Represents You in the Legislature?
Chapter 5. What Do Voters Think about in State Legislative Elections?
Chapter 6. Accountability for Representation: “Out of Step” but Mostly Still in Office
Chapter 7. The Electoral Impact of Party Performance: All Politics Are Not Local
Chapter 8. “Accountability” in Primary Elections 
Chapter 9. The Cracking Foundation of Statehouse Democracy

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