Civic Activity

Study: President’s Approval Rating More Likely to Decide Your State Rep’s Fate Than Their Actual Voting Record

Photo courtesy West Virginia Legislature

Photo courtesy West Virginia Legislature

Study suggests whether your state representative gets re-elected has more to do with national politics than their own voting record or performance.

All politics is local.

If you follow politics or study political science, chances are that you’ve heard this adage. The underlying premise being that state and local officials must govern in a manner that is responsive to the needs of their constituents, or else they will be voted out of office.

But new research out of St. Louis University claims that the national political landscape, and not local pressures, have a stronger influence on who wins state seats.

While state policymakers do possess substantial policy-making ability, in a study titled National Forces in State Legislative Electionspublished this year by the American Academy of Political and Social Science, Dr. Steve Rogers found that the electoral fate of state legislators is not determined by citizens’ evaluations of their performance in office, policy positions or unpopular roll-call votes.

Instead, Rogers found that state legislative politics are heavily driven by national politics. His findings suggest that it is often unlikely that state legislators will be held accountable electorally for their individual decision-making. Rather, they will be held accountable at the ballot box for things entirely out of their hands – like the president’s approval rating.

Rogers studied voter behavior in state legislative elections and the approval ratings of political elites.

Researchers concluded that state legislators of the same party as the president – especially if the president is unpopular – are very likely to face a major party challenger in their bid for reelection. That’s somewhat expected.

“Compared with individuals’ assessments of the state legislature, changes in presidential approval have at least three times the impact on voters’ decision-making in state legislative elections,” Rogers states in his study.

Because assessments of state politicians are not as accessible as those of the president, voters cast their ballots based on what they know, which is very often national politics.

Related Content:

Tracking Uncontested Races in West Virginia


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