Published: June 19, 2020

By: Stephani Langehennig, Joseph Zamadics, Jennifer Wolak, University of Colorado Boulder 

Published: 13 Janurary 2019 


Does the public’s approval of their state legislature reflect their satisfaction with the outputs of state government? Using survey responses from the 2014 Cooperative Congressional Election Study, we consider the roots of public approval of state legislatures. We find that people are more likely to voice approval of their state legislature when it produces policy outcomes that correspond with their interests. Liberals view their state legislature more positively when policy outputs are liberal, while conservatives evaluate their state legislature more favorably when policy outcomes are conservative. These effects are the most pronounced among those who are the most knowledgeable about state politics. Using panel data from 2012 to 2014, we also show that changes in state policy liberalism are associated with changes in state legislative approval. Even though we have reasons to be pessimistic about the quality of citizens’ assessments of state government, our results demonstrate that citizens evaluate their state legislatures based on the policy outcomes they provide.

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