The federal face of democratic representation: The effects of responsibility attribution on cross-level voting behavior and government responsiveness in the United States
Arceneaux, Kevin Timothy
Alford, John R.
Doctor of Philosophy
Federalism is designed to enhance democratic representation because it gives citizens the opportunity to shape policymaking at multiple levels of government. This design feature is premised on the assumption that individuals make distinctions in the responsibilities that pertain to different levels of government and link these distinctions in a rational way to their voting decisions. Citizens are expected to sanction politicians for those policy decisions over which their level of government has responsibility. This dissertation draws on work in both political and social psychology to develop a theoretical framework consistent with the federalist view of democratic representation. Existing and original survey data drawn from U.S. samples were employed to test the hypotheses derived from this model. These data corroborate the federalist view, suggesting that federalism shapes voting behavior in the United States in expected ways. Further evidence also demonstrates that how policy responsibilities are divided among levels of government is responsive to changes in public opinion. All together, these findings buttress the claim that federalism enhances democratic representation.