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Segmented Representation: The Reagan White House and Disproportionate Responsiveness (WP-07-10)

James N. Druckman and Lawrence R. Jacobs

Are the decisions of American policymakers influenced by the attitudes of the general public or by the views of distinct sub-groups of voters? This paper seeks to identify disproportionate influence of economic and political subgroups on government policies of particular interest to them. Using a unique data set of private polls from the White House of Ronald Reagan, the researchers find variations in presidential issue positions across policy domains, and note different types of public attitudes that reflect the views of high income earners, political independents, Baptists and born again protestants, and conservative Republicans. These findings have implications for both understanding the strategic calculations in how public opinion is collected and used, as well as identifying economic and political pathways for biasing government policy from serving the overall interests of the country.

James N. Druckman, Associate Professor of Political Science, Northwestern University

Lawrence R. Jacobs, Professor of Political Science, University of Minnesota

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