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Legislative Holdouts (WP-14-21)

Sarah Anderson, Daniel Butler, and Laurel Harbridge

Holding out occurs when a legislator votes against a policy that is closer to her ideal point than the status quo. The researchers’ original survey of state legislators shows that a large number, over a quarter, indicate that they would vote against a proposal even though it is closer to their ideal policy than the status quo. Following their pre-analysis plan, the researchers examine a number of possible factors that could explain why these legislators hold out. Their data indicate that Republicans, legislators in the majority, and those who fear that their constituents will punish compromise are most likely to hold out. The results show one way legislative gridlock can occur even when a supermajority of legislators could be made better off by policy change. 

Sarah Anderson, Associate Professor of Environmental Politics, University of California, Santa Barbara

Daniel Butler, Associate Professor of Political Science, Washington University in St. Louis

Laurel Harbridge, Assistant Professor of Political Science and Faculty Fellow, Institute for Policy Research, Northwestern University

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