State Parties, Polarization, and Representation of the Poor

Publication Date:
Jan 2007
Project Programs:
Social, Political, and Economic Inequality

Recent research by McCarty, Poole and Rosenthal (2006) appears to contradict earlier positions in political science (Key 1949) concerning the consequences of party polarization on the policy benefits that accrue to the poor. In this paper we examine party polarization and state party ideology to assess the relationship between state economic context, party polarization and overall system ideology. We develop a new measure of state party ideologies based on data from over 16,000 state legislative candidate responses to Project Vote Smart‘s issue surveys. The impact of polarization on the representation of the poor in state party programs is highly conditional with polarization associated with less favorable party stances in wealthier states but more favorable positioning in poorer states. These results are explained by the differential responsive of Democratic and Republic elites to their constituencies and how state economic conditions influence the ideological preferences of their party supporters and beneficiaries.


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