Legislating Without Constraints: The Effect of Minority Districting on Legislators' Responsiveness to Constituency Preferences


Claudine Gay is professor of government, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA 02138.


Numerous critics have charged that the practice of minority districting, by weakening the electoral incentives central to representative behavior, leads legislators to be less responsive to constituency opinion. Using data on referenda and initiative voting to estimate constituency preferences in each of California's 80 Assembly districts, I assess the correspondence between district opinion and roll call voting for legislators from majority-minority and majority-white districts. I show that constituency preferences can explain the voting decisions of legislators equally well across districts. Despite the low levels of competition and voter turnout found in majority-minority districts, legislators from these districts are no less responsive to the policy demands of their constituents.