Driving Legislators' Policy Preferences: Constituent Commutes and Gas Taxes

Sarah E. Anderson*, Daniel M. Butler, Laurel Harbridge-Yong, G. Agustin Markarian

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Understanding differential policy costs across constituencies, and how they link to legislators' policy preferences, can facilitate policy changes that solve pressing problems. We examine the role of policy costs on constituents by studying legislator support for taxing gasoline. Analysis of survey responses from US state legislators, as well as of their voting records, shows that legislators whose constituents would be most affected by an increased gas tax—those whose constituents have longer commutes—are more likely to oppose higher gas taxes. Separately estimating the impact of time spent driving to work versus using public transit shows that the effect of commute times comes from those who have long drives, not from those who ride public transit, highlighting how the policy costs to constituents is a major driver in legislators' considerations. We finish the article by discussing the implications of our findings for combating climate change and for understanding policy feedbacks.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)203-218
Number of pages16
JournalLegislative Studies Quarterly
Issue number1
StatePublished - Feb 2023

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sociology and Political Science


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