You Can’t Always Get What You Want: How Majority-Party Agenda Setting and Ignored Alternatives Shape Public Attitudes

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Agenda setting is central to the study of legislatures and has profound implications for policy outcomes—yet little is known about how the public reacts to agenda setting and to majority-party decisions to ignore alternative proposals. We hypothesize that voters will be less satisfied with policy decisions when they are made aware of ignored alternatives. Drawing on literature on procedural fairness and partisan identity, we offer competing predictions for whether all respondents or only minority-party voters will oppose agenda setting and whether the strongest negative reaction will be elicited when bipartisan alternatives or minority-party proposals are ignored. Through a series of experiments, we show that information about agenda setting can drive down public support for legislation and for Congress as a whole and reduce the perceived fairness of the legislative process. Importantly, these effects are not confined to cases where popular policy alternatives are ignored or where one’s own party loses out.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalLegislative Studies Quarterly
DOIs
StateAccepted/In press - 2020

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sociology and Political Science

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