Gay Rights in the States:Public Opinion and Policy Responsiveness
Jeffrey R. Lax
Department of Political ScienceColumbia University JRL2124@columbia.eduJustin H. PhillipsDepartment of Political ScienceColumbia University JHP2121@columbia.eduJune 29, 2009
We study the effects of policy-speciﬁc public opinion on state adoption of policies affectinggays and lesbians, and the factors that condition this relationship. Using national surveys andadvances in opinion estimation, we create new estimates of state-level support for eight policiesincluding civil unions and non-discrimination laws. We differentiate between responsivenessto opinion and congruence with opinion majorities. We ﬁnd a high degree of responsiveness,controlling for interest group pressure and the ideology of voters and elected ofﬁcials. Policy salience strongly increases the inﬂuence of policy-speciﬁc opinion (directly and relative to gen-eral voter ideology). There is, however, a surprising amount of non-congruence—for some poli-cies, even clear super-majority support seems insufﬁcient for adoption. When non-congruent,policy tends to be more conservative than desired by voters; that is, there is little pro-gay policy bias. State political institutions have no signiﬁcant effect on policy responsiveness; legislativeprofessionalization affects congruence.Forthcoming,
American Political Science Review
, Vol. 103 (3), 2009
For helpful comments, we thank Bernd Beber, Deborah Beim, Robert Erikson, Andrew Gelman, Donald Haider-Markel, Fred Harris, John Huber, John Kastellec, Thad Kousser, Nolan McCarty, Kelly Rader, Robert Shapiro, MelissaSchwartzberg, Yu-Sung Su, and Gerald Wright. Earlier versions were presented at the 2008 State Politics and Policy Conference, Princeton University, SUNY Stony Brook, and the University of Iowa, and we thank participants for usefuldiscussions. We thank the Roper Center for Public Opinion Research for use of the iPoll archive.