Larry Bartels, a political scientist at Princeton University, has done some fascinating research on the responsiveness of U.S. Senators to the policy preferences of voters, broken down by income level. The above graph shows what happens when candidates have to spend so much of their time plying high-dollar donors for big checks to fund their increasingly expensive campaigns. As The New York Times noted today, Mitt Romney and President Obama have both held more fund-raisers than they have public events over the last seven days.
(via Princeton University)
I wonder how this looks when controlled for voter information levels. Hang on, why don’t I read the thing?
In almost every instance, senators appear to be considerably more responsive to the opinions of affluent constituents than to the opinions of middle-class constituents, while the opinions of constituents in the bottom third of the income distribution have no apparent statistical effect on their senators’ roll call votes. Disparities in representation are especially pronounced for Republican senators, who were more than twice as responsive as Democratic senators to the ideological views of affluent constituents. These income-based disparities in representation appear to be unrelated to disparities in turnout and political knowledge and only weakly related to disparities in the extent of constituents’ contact with senators and their staffs.
Ain’t that a bitch?