How private politics alters legislative responsiveness

James N. Druckman, Julia Valdes

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Private politics occurs when citizens and activists seek policy change outside the democratic legislative process. This includes boycotting companies and/or buycotting products so as to influence market practices (e.g., increased wages, more attention to environmental impact). The rise of private politics complicates our understanding of democratic responsiveness — legislators may be less incentivized to respond to citizens’ preferences. This occurs because legislators receive less credit for policy change and may view themselves as less necessary for policy-making. We present a survey experiment with state legislators to explore how legislators react to private politics. We find that a constituent communication that references private politics vitiates legislative responsiveness. In particular, Republicans become less likely to say they would take policy action or move their positions. Moreover, reference to private politics decreases the likelihood of constituent engagement among both Republican and Democratic legislators. Our results accentuate the importance of considering private politics in conversations about how democracies work.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)115-130
Number of pages16
JournalQuarterly Journal of Political Science
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2019


  • Interest groups
  • Policy-making
  • Private politics
  • Representation
  • Responsiveness
  • State legislators

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Political Science and International Relations

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