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State Legislative Institutions, Party Leaders, and Legislators’ Weighted Preferences (WP-14-24)

Sarah Anderson, Daniel Butler, and Laurel Harbridge

Many scholars argue that institutions affect party leaders’ power to influence rank-and-file members. The researchers assess one way this could happen, by changing the weight that members put on their leaders’ positions. Leveraging variation in state-level institutions, they use original data on state legislators’ preferences to test how term limits, legislative professionalism, and majority agenda control predict changes in the weights that legislators put on leaders’ positions when forming their policy preferences. They find that legislators in term-limited states and in more professional legislatures put less weight on leaders’ preferences. They also find that legislators put more weight on leaders’ preferences in legislative chambers where the majority party controls access to the calendar. These results point to how party influence strongly depends on institutional arrangements.

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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