Your Legislator Thinks You’re a Conservative

Liberals have never been able to (or, often, evensought to) match conservatives’ state-by-state organizing and statehouse lobbying  –

even though comparatively small investments can reap major rewards in such environments.

–The Atlantic

A fascinating new study shows that Legislators routinely mis-perceive their constituents as being more conservative than they actually are, which translates into a much higher threshold of support needed for “liberal” policies to pass. This skewed perception, The Atlantic suggests [excerpted below], might be because Conservatives have been so much more organized and effective with issues advocacy over the last decades.

We at Progressive Mass firmly believe that if progressives organize and mobilize, we can close the gap between perception and reality, and begin to finally pass progressive policy that ensures middle-class growth and security, and justice and equality for all, not just some.

This is why we ask you to join with our efforts: plug in, get connected with other progressives across the state, get organized, take action! (New to us? Quick steps to get started: join our mailing list so we can keep in touch)

This gap between legislators’ perceptions of us, the conservative-progressive organizing gap and voters’ actual positions is playing out right now on a critical MA policy issue.  After ill-advised tax cuts in the 1990s, our education, services and infrastructure desperately need new, progressively raised revenue. But we again are being out-organized! (At a recent community forum, even progressive legislators from progressive districts were almost begging their constituents to contact them with support! Read about it here.)

Raising progressive revenue to reverse a decade+ of budget cuts and to re-invest in our communities is an issue needs all of our organizing and influence, now. Help close the organizing/perception gap:

Excerpt from The Atlantic:

The paper, “What Politicians Believe About Their Constituents: Asymmetric Misperceptions and Prospects for Constituency Control,” found that “[T]here is a striking conservative bias in politicians’ perceptions, particularly among conservatives: conservative politicians systematically believe their constituents are more conservative than they actually are by more than 20 percentage points on average, and liberal politicians also typically overestimate their constituents’ conservatism by several percentage points.” [...]

Dylan Matthews dug into some of their data over at Wonkblog [finding that] the supermajority requirement for support that is the new normal in our national legislature for (many, though not all) liberal bills to pass also exists at the state legislative level.

The study authors don’t really get into why. But here’s one theory: The overall political views of a district are less important for policymaking than the organized political groups in a district, and conservatives have since the 1970s pursued a strategy of robust organizing within states in the service of pushing conservative policies. [...]

[...It's not that legislators] are out of touch with their constituents and unwilling to listen to others, so much as as that [legislators] are in touch with a highly organized infrastructure of pressure groups dedicated to lobbying them to vote even more conservatively than their overall constituency might wish.

Liberals have never been able to (or, more commonly, sought to) match the extent of state-by-state organizing and statehouse lobbying of conservative groups and causes, even though comparatively small investments can reap major rewards in such environments.

see also: 

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