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Representation and Local Policy: Relating County-Level Public Opinion to Policy Outputs Author(s): Garrick L. Percival, Martin Johnson, Max Neiman Source: Political Research Quarterly, Vol. 62, No. 1 (Mar., 2009), pp. 164-177 Published by: Sage Publications, Inc. on behalf of the University of Utah Stable URL: . Accessed: 07/02/2011 20:11
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and Local Policy

Political Research Quarterly Volume 62 Number 1 March 2009 164-177 2009 University ofUtah 10.1177/1065912908316341 hosted at

Relating County-Level Public Opinion toPolicy Outputs

Garrick L. Percival
University ofMinnesota, Duluth

Martin Johnson
University of California, Riverside

Max Neiman
Public Policy Institute of California, San Francisco

Students of local politics have arguedAmerican federalism implies littlerole for local tastes in policy making. Peterson (1979) anticipates the pursuit of a productive tax base will depress subnational government spending on social ser vices, while promoting developmental policies. We investigate the role public opinion plays in county-level redistrib utive, developmental, and allocational program spending in California, using a novel measure of county political We ideology. Our findings challenge expectations that local governments are uniformly biased against redistribution. find that social service spending varies across counties as a function of ideological orientation. In several policy areas, institutional structure mediates the responsiveness of officials. Keywords: policy representation; local politics; political ideology; public policy

been Scholars

policy linkages by examining how local political

ence ideology shapes policy within states, asking to what extent does localized influ ideological dispositions local-level

political attitudes and the choices of state policy mak ers. We extend the investigation of subnational opinion

policies ion in the states (Weber and Shaffer 1972; Morehouse 1973). Erikson, Wright, and Mclver (1993) and others have established an association between states' general

state politics have long of comparative interested in the extent to which the public of state governments reflectmass public opin

strength of this association is conditioned by differing county institutional structures.As a whole, these results clarify the circumstances under which local govern ments will support redistributive policies, despite the strong inclination for localities not to do so. By con trast,our findings support the view that there is a mean ingful local politics, despite the substantial hemming-in

of local choice bymandates,


constitutions, and resource

sumed. To

argue that local policymaking? We ideology should have a much greater influence on local governments' policy choices than is often pre test this expectation, we follow methods at the state level to create a reliable and sta

Local Policy Making "Limited Politics"

Peterson's (1979,


employed ble measure

California Field Poll surveys (1990-1999) to the

county level and test the relationship between local political orientations and a broad range of policy out puts at the county level.

of local ideology by aggregating statewide

1981) seminal examination of city policy making argues local governments' policy choices are confined by the structural constraints of U.S. feder alism, and as a result, local politics is best characterized as a "limited politics," where local governments' policy agendas are relatively narrow, with an almost exclusive
L. Percival, Assistant Duluth; Professor Professor e-mail: of Political Science,

We find counties' expenditure patterns vary as a function of ideology across a number of issues; how ever, the ideology-policy linkage is not straightforward. Specifically, the impact of county ideological disposi tions are more 164

Garrick University Martin

of Minnesota, Science, University

Johnson, Associate Riverside; Associate

of Political

of Cahfornia, Max Neiman,

e-mail: Director, Public Policy Institute of


likely to impact redistributive policies? conflict is most intense?and the political





and Neiman


and Local



focus on enacting policies aimed at improving eco nomic growth. In his account, there is little room for the representation of local interests given the economic imperatives that limit local policy makers. Peterson's (1981) primary argument that local main goal is set on delivering eco governments' nomic growth policies has shaped the expectations scholars have about

county governments have held a unique position in as the American system, designed governmental administrative arms of state governments that could conveniently and efficiently deliver state programs and boundaries their geographic within (Berman Salant 1996; Benton 2002a). As a result, their functional responsibilities often differed from those of munici palities. From


process. According local governments

the local policy making to the "city limits" framework, tend to shy away from policies economic

that could potentially hurt communities' an economic standing. This works to create

and polit ical bias against redistributive policies; those policies that redistribute wealth from those who are better off

to those who are worse off. Instead, local governments pursue what Peterson classifies as "developmental"

(such as investing in an industrial park, subsidizing a new shopping center, or building local schools) and street sweeping, garbage "allocational" (including collection,

An alternative view advanced here posits that local ideology should have a significant impact on county policy processes and policy choices that elected offi cials make. literature This flows county tremendous change in the role and functions of county governments in the United States. Growing demands from the bottom up, driven by increasing urbanization on

and developmental policies, one ought not to a significant explanatory role for such factors expect as the ideology of their residents. cational

are as counties this perspective, severely restricted by top-down constraints and trend toward producing a narrow set of state-imposed allo

from an emerging body of that documents government

community policing, and fire protection that together work to enhance the local tax policies) base and generate additional resources that can be used to help the welfare of the city. He assumes this pursuit of economic growth is popular among deci sion makers, and because of this, there is generally less political conflict at the local level. Overall, Peterson claims that because

local governments are less likely to play an active role in areas of policy where politi cal conflict is high, and more likely to adopt and

implement policies where political conflict is low, local political forces like ideology and partisanship influence on policy making at should have minimal

provided counties with significantlymore authority and discretion (Benton 2002a). As many counties have become increasingly urbanized, especially those in the American South andWest, the demand for city-like ser vices has increased (DeSantis and Renner 1996). In the nature of services offered by county gov response, ernments has grown since the early 1980s frommore

plights in the 1990s, has not only caused counties to increase the range of services they provide, but has also

and suburbanization, in addition to top-down forces such as a decline in federal revenue sharing to local governments in the 1980s and state governments' fiscal

matter in shaping policies (Clingermayer and Feiock 1995). However, empirical analysis of actual policy outcomes among cities demonstrates a strong and consistent inclination to benefit economic and com mercial is to ascertain interests, and the challenge of economic development gives when the imperative way to redistributive policies (Lewis 2001a, 2001b).

In fairness to Peterson, his framework does not pre clude having local governments produce policies that benefit the less well-off at the expense of better-heeled local populations. There is ample evidence to suggest local institutions and local political circumstances

thelocal level (1981, 128).

traditional services like property tax assessment, law 1985; enforcement, and elections (Benton and Rigos to other additional services such as health Cigler 1990), care, educational services, pollution control, and mass transit among others (Duncombe 1977; Schneider and Park 1989; Benton 2002a; 2003). Inmany cases, coun ties have begun to rival or even become the predomi nant provider ofmany municipal and regional services (Benton 2002a). To carry out increasingly complex functions, state governments have tended to increase the amount of policy discretion and hence decision making authority to county governments (Bowman and

Kearney 1986;Martin andNyhan 1994). Ideological

divisions often characterize many of these "new" poli cies being adopted and implemented at the county level. These divisions, coupled with ideological increased county authority and discretion provides a sound basis for our central expectation that there is sig

Reconsidering Opinion in Local

the Role

of Local Public Policy Decisions

on the We develop a "county limits" variation Peterson theme and investigate the responsiveness of county governments to local circumstances. Historically,

nificant "room" for local ideology to shape policy at the county level.

166 Political Research Quarterly ideological disposition of county residents could be linked to public policy in several ways. Street-level bureaucrats in counties with distinct ide The ological profiles, for example, might be more likely or feel compelled to implement policies in ways that reflect prevailing closely ideological preferences these kinds available. and Renner vative of comparable data are only narrowly Scholars have also relied on the presiden

local agencies might also be recruited in ways that reflect the views of the local legislature (Board of County Supervisors, School Boards, or City Councils). In addition, local elected officials (e.g. County Boards of Supervisors) are likely to try to adopt policies that reflect or are consistent with the ideological prefer ences of their constituents. In short, as counties become involved in such controversial or divisive issues as

of and leadership (Lipsky 1980).Of course, the staff

possibility of confounding attitudes toward national office with local issues, while the lattermeasures rely on the assumptions built into simulations, and it is difficult to ascertain resentative. We the extent to which they are rep use a different technique informed by an approach developed for the study of public opin ion and policy at the state level.

of techniques to create measures school board ideology across the states (see Berkman and Plutzer 2005). The former approach brings the simulation

tial vote totals as a proxy for local ideology (DeSantis 1996) and most recently have used inno

managing growth, implementing controversial pro in such areas as welfare, parolees, homeless grams

ness, and health care for the poor, it is plausible to inclinations of the local expect that the ideological will play a role. Based on this, our central population expectation is that local ideological orientations should impact county-level policy outputs. Students of representation have found public opin ion to have a strong influence across much of the

Political Orientations Measuring Local Level in California

In this research we measure similar

at the

local ideology using to those of Erikson, Wright, and Mclver (1993). Their research significantly advanced the understanding of state-level public opinion by cre methods ating reliable and valid measures


Erikson 1978), on nationalpolicy outputs (Wlezien

and Erikson 1996), 1995, 1996; Stimson, MacKuen, and between state policy decisions and general mea sures of political ideology and more specific public

political system, including the voting behav ior of members of Congress (Miller and Stokes 1963;

and partisanshipby pooling 1976-1988 nationally

sampled CBS/New York Times polls and aggregating them at the state level. In the years since Wright,

of political


demands Mclver

of state residents (e.g., Erikson, Wright, and 1993; Hill and Hinton-Andersson 1995; Hill and Leighley 1996). In contrast, however, littlework responsiveness

has systematically investigated policy to ideology at the local level.

2001), the use of the death penalty (Norrander 2001), and environmental policy responsiveness (Johnson, Brace, and Arceneaux 2005). A recent edited volume (Cohen 2006) provides an representation (Arceneaux excellent overview of these techniques and applica tions to state politics. We use a similar approach, re aggregating to the county-level statewide California

Erikson, and Mclver (1985) developed the approach, a number of scholars have studied opinion-policy linkages at the state level, exploring patterns of female

local ideological orientations. In particu measuring lar, it is extremely difficult to find comparative mea sures of ideology across several localities. Earlier shared beliefs among commu attempts atmeasuring nities have led to concepts such as local "political culture" or "political ethos" (see Banfield andWilson

One major reason the relationship between ideol ogy and public policy remains underexplored by students of local politics is the inherent difficulty of

Field Poll

residents on a wide range of public pol issues and questions regarding their support for icy various political candidates at the national, state, and to California were levels of government.2 For this research, data gathered from forty-eight Field Poll surveys totaling 51,930 individual respondents. The Field Poll local to place themselves continuum.

surveys conducted 1990-1999.1 in 1947, and continuing every year Established since, the Field Poll routinely fields surveys questions

there were efforts to 1963; Eulau 1973). Although measure political culture or the "ethos" of local resi dents, these studies involved only indirect indicators of voters' views (Hawkins 1971). In limited cases, scholars have utilized public data sampled from multiple local communi opinion ties by a single research organization using compara ble sampling and survey administration techniques (e.g., Pierce, Lovrich, and Moon 2002). However,

ideology Specifically, respondents were asked, "Do you con sider yourself to be politically conservative, liberal, middle-of-the road, or don't you think of yourself in thisway?" Conservatives were coded 100, middle-of the-road 0, and liberals -100. In addition, the Field

consistently asks respondents along a three-point political



and Neiman


and Local



Table 1 Scores by County with Sample Sizes Ideology

Sierra Madera Tulare Shasta Mariposa Kern Inyo Sutter

Name Ideology 50.00

41.27 41.23 37.40 37.14

Sample Size

Merced Glenn Del Norte Lassen Butte Tuolumne Solano Monterey Napa

Ideology Sample

Size 215 37 33 55 361 93 404 430 166 3,044 524 1,459 396 120 200 86 21 10,326 2,020 1,100 127 973 193 565 348 1,740 338 15 1,449

36.35 35.25

El Dorado
Mono Fresno San Benito Nevada Tehama San Bernardino Amador Riverside

34.78 34.38 33.78 32.61 31.82 31.74 31.58 30.36

127 350 253 37 666 34 116 208 23 774 74 184 89 1,727 57 1,460 116 3,451 570 83 854 72 37 296 14 26 78 441

24.24 24.07 23.75

21.01 21.00 20.75

San Diego
Santa Barbara Sacramento


18.18 15.00 13.27

San Luis Obispo Humboldt

Lake Modoc Los Angeles Santa Clara Contra Costa Mendocino San Mateo Yolo Sonoma Santa Cruz Alameda Marin Imperial

10.53 10.38 8.41 8.36 6.45 3.27 0.00 0.00 -5.81 -7.78 -11.90 -20.33 -25.35

Orange San Joaquin Yuba Ventura Calaveras Plumas Placer


28.92 27.86 27.78 27.78 27.59 27.27 26.92 26.92 26.56



San Francisco


in each county ranged from 10,326 inLos Angeles county to fourteen in Sierra and Trinity counties (mean = 659.01). Ideology scores most conservative Sierra county (50.00) ranged from the

respondent his or her county of resi dence, allowing us to link each response to a given county. Individual responses were then aggregated to scores for California's fifty-eight create ideological asks each counties. The number of cases

1990). Presented by Jones and Norrander test compares (1996), the O'Brien generalizability within-unit variance to the across-unit variance while (O'Brien taking into account sample size (Norrander 2001, of ideology will be more generaliz 113).3 Measures able across units with less intra-county variation and variation

ideology measure,



the O'Brien



to themost liberal San Francisco county (-25.35) with a mean = 21.28. Ideology scores and sample sizes for each of the fifty-eight counties are listed in Table 1.

in ideological inter dispositions An O'Brien coefficient that county. generalizability exceeds .70 is considered to be highly generalizable, and values between .60 and .70 are considered to be

Auditing the County-Level Measure of Ideology

responses are treated here as aggregate and therefore it is not appropriate to use stan data, dard measures of individual-level reliability like Individual Cronbach's

The O'Brien coefficient moderately generalizable. for the county-level ideology measure is .96. An additional

not individuals. To first test the generalizability

alpha (Brace et al. 2002). Because of this, Jones and Norrander (1996) recommend testing reli ability analysis on the basis of aggregate units, and of the

sample into two subsets by assigning odd year surveys to one subset and even years to the other. scores for county ideology were calculated for Mean Field Poll r coeffi subset and correlated using Pearson's cients. The Spearman-Brown formula was prophesy used to assess the reliability of each measure: each

test of reliability is the split-half and Mclver approach used by Erikson, Wright, The split-half approach involves splitting the (1993).

168 Political Research Quarterly 2rv 1+rv = where r12 thePearson's r correlation between the split halves. Reliability scores of .70 and above are consid ered reliable, those between .60 and .70 are considered moderately reliable, and those below .60 are consid ered unreliable 1996). The (Jones and Norrander coefficient for the reliability of the Spearman-Brown county-level ideology measure equals .60. To test the stability of the measure, the Field Poll Field Poll sample, a series of demographic character derived from the Field Poll sample and characteristics correlated with county demographic istics were

collected by the U.S. Census (see Brace et al. 2002). Results presented in Table 2 show that county samples obtained from the Field Poll are substantially represen tative. Specifically, we find a strong correlation between

sample was divided into "early" and "late" subsets. The early subset included survey years 1990-1995, and the scores for county ideol late subset 1996-1999. Mean ogy were calculated and correlated. The Spearman Brown coefficient for the stability of county-level ideology was .62, close towhat is considered themini

Poll respondents and U.S. Census statistics. Racial char acteristics of respondents, although showing a slightly weaker correlation to U.S. Census figures than do the education

the educational attainment of the sample and educa tional attainment reported by theU.S. Census in 1990 and 2000 (U.S. Census Bureau). A similarly strong rela tionship is found among between the income of Field

and income figures, are moderately strong nonetheless. Importantly, the strong correlations for education and income and themoderately strong corre lations for the race variables suggest that the Field Poll samples adequately reflect county populations.


reliability level. In sum, the assessment of the reliability of the ideology measure is mixed. The measure is highly reliable, although the O'Brien coefficients using the split-half Spearman-Brown approach are at the low end of scores considered to be

constructed an alternative measure

"moderately" reliable. Given this, in a final attempt to assess the validity and reliability of themeasure, we of county-level ide

Expectations about Public Opinion, Government Institutions, and Policy Making

the measure of county ideology discussed Using our primary expectation is that counties' ideolog above, icalmakeup will impact policy outputs at the county level;

Public Policy data fromthe ologyusingpooled survey

Institute of California (PPIC). PPIC conducted seventy one surveys from 1998 to September 2006, and each survey included questions about political ideology that substantively mirrors the Field Poll question we use constructed the same ideology measure using this PPIC data, aggregated to the county level. These county-level ideology scores are highly correlated with the Field Poll county scores (r = .82,p < .01), suggest with repeated sampling, the survey-based mea ing that sure we use

however, we expect the relative impact of county ideol ogy to vary across issue type and differing county struc


allocational in nature (Wong 1988). Policies associated with welfare payments and public health care are consid ered by Peterson (1981) as redistributive policies, and as

tures. Among different issue types, local political should affect redistributive policies rather orientations than those policies considered to be developmental or

local-level political reliably gauges orientations. We have chosen to use the Field Poll ide

ology measure here, but at the same timemake note of its possible deficiencies, which in the analysis would likely tend to attenuate findings.

noted above, these policies often raise issues that are ide ologically divisive and more likely to elicit support or opposition along ideological lines. Traditionally, conser

more restrictive welfare policies and less vatives push for on public health care, reflecting government spending

How Well Do Field Poll-Based Measures Represent County-Level California Demographics?

counties are not the population of inter est for the Field Poll, and thus we cannot assume that the sampling frame employed by that organization California produces

their views toward limiting both the size of government and the scope of government intervention. In contrast, liberals have traditionallypushed for greaterwelfare ben efits with fewer restrictions and a more active role for


government in health care, which reflects theiroverarch ing belief in the social benefits that accrue from a larger, active role for government in fighting social ills related to poverty (Rom 1999). These associations

bias might be introduced when creating a nonrandom sample from state residents. To test the validity of the

As tion. noted byHill and Hurley (1984), a sample


estimates of county popula

between ideology and policy outputs have been empiri cally demonstrated at the state level, where research has more found greater social welfare spending among stateswith liberal publics and political elites (Erikson,Wright,



and Neiman


and Local



Table 2
Representativeness of Field Poll County 2000
Education Income 91**


service delivery roles (Benton 2002b). Thus, "reformed" county governments include those with an elected or appointed executive (rather than the traditional county commission form, which lacks a singular executive authority), home rule charters, and nonpartisan elec tions. Early tests of the effects of local government structures on policy decisions placed emphasis on cities rather than counties. Lineberry and Fowler (1967)


Average 1990/2000

.75** g7** .86** Party .76**

76** 88** 87** 78**

.76** 88** .87** 77**

White Black
Asian Democratic

registration **p < .01 Note: Education dents who

found that reformed city governments (at the city level reformed structures are those with council-manager government and at-large and nonpartisan elections) had lower taxes and expenditures than unreformed cities (i.e., cities with mayor-council government and partisan elections); however, Clark (1968) found reformed gov

of county resi by the percentage or higher. Income is a bachelor's degree of Field Poll respondents measured by correlating the percentage between income was their total household who mentioned is measured have earned

median household income $20,000 and $40,000 dollars and the

of the respondent's county reported are based on sample characteristics Racial Census. by the U.S. drawn from self estimates

ernments to have higher expenditures. recent work examining the structure-policy More link at the county level has consistently found that reformed county executive structures have higher per capita expenditures than do unreformed county com forms and (see Schneider this line of work, DeSantis Park 1989). and Renner

are correlated with reported information from the Field Poll and is based on the U.S. Census data. Democratic Party registration identified themselves of Field Poll respondents who percentage as members registration of the Democratic data housed Party and correlated with voter Secretary of State. by the California

mission (1996)


argue that the impact of county structure is not necessarily additive (or direct) but rather conditions economic

matter less with respect to these might expect ideology to and other allocationai and developmental policies. this, our first hypothesis is that more Following liberal counties will produce higher levels of spend ing on redistributive social programs like welfare and con public health care relative tomore ideologically counties. Because allocationai and develop servative mental policies are generally associated with lower have levels of political conflict, we expect little or no effect in these areas. Formally, HI: the following hypothesis ideology

1993; Hill and Hinton-Andersson 1995). Conversely, allocationai and developmental policies are we less likely to engender political conflict, and therefore and Mclver

the influence of county contextual factors like socio and political factors on policy choices at the level. That is, particular county government county structures may facilitate or hinder counties' abilities

to respond to specific policy demands. For example, using a measure of the percentage of the two-party (Democratic) vote in the 1988 presidential campaign as a proxy for county ideology, DeSantis and Renner


either county commission or county executive struc tures but has a positive and significant impact on expen ditures for county administrator forms. Overall this evidence highlights the importance of testing for con ditional effects between county ideology, county structure, and local policy outputs. In California,

in (1996) find ideology is unrelated to expenditures

is tested:

liberal counties Ceteris paribus, ideologically will produce higher levels of spending in redis tributive policy areas like welfare and public con health care relative to more ideologically servative counties.

county government structure does not counties can be considered differ dramatically?all

"reform" governments in that they have nonpartisan elections and appointed executives rather than county commissions with no executive. However, the state of has two classifications of counties based

California A growing body of literature focused on the impact of county form or structure on policy suggests that any relationship between ideological orientations and pol icy outputs may also be influenced by county structure (DeSantis American and Renner county increase professionalism and centralize executive lead ership to more effectively carry out their expanding 1996). Contemporary reforms in to structures have been designed

on whether a county is considered to be a home rule "charter" county or a "general law" county. Among California counties, fourteen of fifty-eight are consid ered "charter" counties (Connell 2001). Generally, a home-rule charter grants a county a greater degree of self-rule and self-determination that frees it from some legal restrictions imposed by the state (Duncombe can also leverage 1977). Chartered governments

170 PoliticalResearch Quarterly different fiscal reforms thatmake it easier to respond to increasing resident demands for an expanded menu of services as well as higher levels of current services (Benton 2002b). The California Constitution, however, does not allow officials in charter counties extra regu latory functions or added revenue-raising abilities, but it does allow them the ability to consolidate or segre gate different county administrative offices, provide for the election or appointment of county officials, and set powers and duties of all officers.4 Although the provides a limited amount of free dom to its charter counties vis-a-vis other state-county government arrangements, given their increased dis State of California cretion and capacity relative to general law county structures, we might expect the ideology-policy link age to be further strengthened in those counties where a charter is present. H2: The with different degrees of political conflict, depending on whether it manifests primarily a redistributive, develop dynamic.

mental, or allocational

Policy Indicators
The Office releases of the State Controller in California report on county revenues and expenditures, separate from fiscal data of all other local school districts, or governments (e.g. municipalities, community college districts).We draw our policy indi cators from this report.5 We identify six areas of public expenditures (Connell 2001), two in each of Peterson's issue typology. For allocational policies, we use general an annual

government expenditures, which includes budget items from day-to-day county administration (e.g., legislative and administrative expenses, finance, counsel, person nel, elections, property management, etc.) and public protection (e.g., judicial services, police protection, detention and correction, fire protection, etc.). The developmental policies we examine are education (school administration, library services, and agricul tural education) and public ways and facilities (includ ing roads, transportation systems, and parking). Finally, our redistributive policies are health care (public health, medical care, mental health, drug and alcohol abuse

tieswith home rule charters, ideologically conser vative counties will produce lower levels of

relationship between county ideology and redistributive policy should be strengthened in counties where a charter is present. Among coun

spending on redistributive policy areas likewelfare and health care while more ideologically liberal

counties will produce higher levels of spending.

Ideology and Local Policy Outputs in California

To examine the relationship between policy and the ideological disposition of California counties, we use from California's Office of the Controller on

fiscal year. We transform each of these lines intomeasures of per capita spending, by budget dividing each county's expenditures in each area by 1998-1999 estimates of the county population in 1999 (California Institute of County Governments 2001). Consequently,

services) and public assistance (welfare, social ser vices, general relief, etc.). To match the timing of our ideology data we use county expenditure data from the (1990-1999),



are the study's expenditures. These measures dependent variables. The policy measures describe a number of differentpolicy areas?redistributive policies (public assistance, health care), developmental spending (public ways and facilities, education), and allocationai expenditures (public protection and general governmen

county-level spending across six policy areas: public assistance, health and sanitation, public ways and facil ities, education, public protection, and general govern

the dependent variables in themodels that follow are estimates of per capita expenditures across six policy areas at the county level for 1998-1999.6

Alternative Explanations
As noted, our main independent variable is county level political ideology, but we also consider other possible explanatory variables. For example, the liter ature on local policy determinants has long suggested the importance of a host of social, economic, and demographic factors that shape public policy (for an excellent and David compilation 1983). characteristics. It is intuitive that of relevant factors see Kantor

tal spending).We use these policy categories for two pri mary purposes. First, these are all policy areas inwhich county governments are actively involved in regard to policy formulation and implementation. Second, they allow us to employ Peterson's issue typology to explore the relationship of ideology with policy outputs across a substantively wide range of issues. Following Peterson (1981), each of these policy areas is likely associated

Socioeconomic fiscal capacity

is a strong predictor of policy outputs



and Neiman


and Local



grams. In the models presented below, we include measures of median household income and the per centage of residents who have earned a high school

strate that economic factors like the per capita income of residents predict public sector expansion (Hawkins 1971; Feiock andWest 1993). Education is also related to local expenditures: where more educated publics are politically involved they tend to finance public pro

activity must, in part, reflect the ability to support such services. Studies of subnational governments demon

devotes to an (Dye 1979).How much a jurisdiction


when public programs are perceived to tar tend to get minority groups, program allocations less generous (Katz 1989). Research of most become relevance here shows local governments tend to impose tougher sanctions and fewer benefits towelfare recipi ents living in racially diverse contextual environments


and Choi 2004). To control for the (Keiser, Mueser, possible influence of race on the dependent variables, include a measure of the percentage of black resi dents and the percentage of non-white Hispanics resid ing in each county. Data are drawn from the 2000 U.S. (U.S. Census Bureau).

diploma or higher. Data are drawn from the 2000 U.S. Census. Itmight be expected that counties with greater attainment levels incomes and educational median would have a greater capacity across all the policy areas. to increase spending


Table 3 provides OLS regression models for each of the six policy output dependent variables. In each of the regression models, we include a county struc ture dummy variable (1 = charter, 0 = no charter) and a charter*ideology interaction term to test the second

revenues. Although county Intergovernmental levels can be viewed as partly a function spending of its resi characteristics of the socioeconomic dents, we also have to take into account that county by intergovernmental state or fed grants-in-aid or revenue sharing from the For example, counties may receive eral government. funding from the state or the federal government (or expenditures are constrained

the that county structure conditions hypothesis of ideology on county-level policy outputs. impact Among the redistributive policy models, county-level ideology has a negative and statistically significant influence on redistributive policy outputs after control ling for other possible predictors; however, the relation

both) for welfare or health care programs, but levels of funding are often set by how many people live in a county who meet eligibility criteria rather than how it is our much the county wants to spend. Because goal to show that local

forces shape ideological it is important to control for county spending choices, any effects driven by federal or state revenue sent to county governments. To account for county influenced by state and federal spending choices we include in the regression models funding levels, two variables labeled state funds and federal funds,

assistance expenditures. The negative coefficient for the ideology measure in the public assistance model indi cates that ceteris paribus, liberal counties aremore likely to expend greater funds on welfare and other social ser stan deviation change ideology exemplifies from a relatively liberal place like Los County to a substantially more liberal place in

when considering public ship is only significant


vices than counties that are more conservative. A dard Angeles movement

of state and federal which are per capita measures revenues directed to each county in 1998-1999 in those counties that receive higher per capita levels

(Connell2001).We expecthigher levelsof spending

Berkeley), or alternatively a shift from Orange County in southern California toHumboldt County in the north

citiesincluding Oakland and like Alameda County (with

ern portion of the state. The standardized coefficient for county ideology in the public assistance model is .28, suggesting that a standard deviation shift in ideology

of state or federal funding. Racial politics. Increasingly, political scholars point to racial diversity within any given environment as a

programs are distributed (Hero 1998). Racial diversity may impact policy in a couple ways. Geographic prox

of predictor public policy and how public significant

would be associated with an additional $90.24 spent per capita on a county's public assistance programs in 1998-1999. The debate over assistance to the poor and the scope of government involvement are more often politically contentious and structured by ideological beliefs and attitudes. Given this, it is not surprising to

imity to large number of racial minorities may increase sentiments of racial threat among whites (Key 1949; Stein, Post, and Rinden 2000). Perceptions of racial threat tend to decrease support of policies perceived to (Stein, Post, and Rinden 2000).

find that local ideological dispositions relate to outputs in this policy area.

help minority members

In addition, the charter*ideology interaction term has a negative and statistically significant association

172 Political Research Quarterly

Table 3 Local Per Capita Spending across Six PolicyAreas, OLS with Robust Standard Errors Modeling
Allocationai Policies Developmental Policies

Redistributive Policies Health Care


General Ideology
Income Education structure -2.441

Public Protection
-0, All (1.


PublicWays and Facilities

2 37***






0, 003*** (0, .001) 4, 403*** (1 -72,

(0.964) 0.000 (0.001)







County -140.22***

.50) 99




(1.69) 40.555 (33.78)


Charter*ideology State Federal funds funds 4.890*

(49, ,62) 1 .96 (1 .77) 1 .106*** (0 (0 -30










.142) 116)
.485 .612





0 .074

Hispanic Constant


(0.013) 14.556 (45.93) 25.954 (22.81)






211 (162 68) -681 630








N=51 F947= \ff2=.84 5.64*** F

(185.11) N = 57

N=51 ' F947=4.99*** #2=.78

N=51 F9A1= #2=.88 147.15*** 1

N=58 ~ 9,48 J-^y R2=.66

N=51 ' F947= 70.49*** R2=M

= 9.85*** = .87

***/? < .01, **p < .05, *p < .10 Note: Robust standard errors shown excluded from the analysis because

in parentheses expenditures

below across


coefficient. areas

these policy

for the health care model San Francisco Except are not recorded manner. in a comparable






assistance expenditures. At least when considering health care expenditures, this finding suggests county structure has a mediating impact on county ideology, where as expected, a charter strengthens the associa tion between counties' ideological dispositions policy outputs. Several additional

average, thanmore ideologically liberal counties with charters. Conversely, no relationship is found between the charter*ideology interaction term and public

health care expenditures, with more counties with charters spending less, on

greater federal

funds across funds



policy counties'

public ways


tieswith home-rule charters spending more on gen eral government, education, and health care. Finally, larger black and Hispanic populations are associated with more spending on public assistance. As expected, spending

and facilities and public assistance pol icy categories. The county structure variable also appears to influence spending choices, with those coun

indicator, while spending in the

ment, public protection, and public ways and facili on public ties but less spending, spending assistance. Higher educational achievement is asso ciated with more public levels higher

ated with patterns of county-level spending across the different policy domains. levels of Higher income are associated with more general govern

predictor variables

are associ

tionship between

for these alternative controlling we find no significant rela explanations,

spending on general government, protection, and public assistance, but lower of health care expenditures. Counties with levels of per capita state funding expend

developmental like general government expenditures; however, con trary to our expectations, ideology had a negative and statistically significant relationship with public pro tection spending. Overall, these findings lend support to Peterson's (1981) assertion that allocational poli cies like legislative and administrative expenditures, and developmental like highway construc policies tion cause little political conflict, and as we advance

ideology and the budget lines in the policy areas and allocational policies

here, less likely to be influenced by local ideological



and Neiman


and Local



Table 4
Modeling Local Per Capita Spending across Six Policy Areas, Heteroskedastic Regressions Policies Redistributive Health Public
Assistance Care

Allocational Policies

Developmental Policies PublicWays Public

Education and Facilities



Choice model Ideology

Income Education structure -0.306 0.924 -0.065 -0.165 -0.938* ?1 923***









(0.000) 0.165 (0.157)


(0.000) 0.150 (0.861)




County -35.83**



(1.247) 34.242 (26.815)


Charter*ideology State Federal funds funds

(18.721) 0.563 (0.769)










(1.041) 0.105 (0.067)







Hispanic Constant Variance Estimated Constant model margin of error



(0.011) 19.768 (22.220)




(0.077) 304.186 (195.553)











(97.025) 150.518 (101.104)












(2.827) 6 999*** (0.315) n=51

x2= 100.256*** ps. r2=a4

(0.315) n=57
%2= 192.67*** %2= ps. r2=.23 ***/? < .01, **p < .05, *p < .10

(0.315) n= 51
142.90*** %2= ps. #2=.18

n=51 130.02*** %2= ps. r2=.25

n=51 140.285*** ps. r2=a9

n=5s x2= 85.301*** ps. r2=.u

dispositions. Significantly, these results suggest that the importance of ideology on local-level policy mak ing will depend to an extent on the issue under con sideration and the structure of county government. The results presented thus far are mixed, having found evidence of a direct relationship between ideol

standard errors. Still, we are concerned about poten tially biased coefficients in these models and hypothe sis testsmarred by the uncertainty associated with these standard errors. Because systematically around the regression we know that sample size will affect the variance of the disturbances

ogy and redistributive policy but only when taking into consideration public assistance expenditures like wel fare and other social services. The absence of a statis tically significant association between county ideology and both redistributive models may be a result from not having accounted adequately for the variation in sample sizes used to compute the ideology measure at the county level. In Table 1,we see sample sizes rang to ing from fourteen (Trinity and Sierra Counties) the obvious than ten thousand (Los Angeles County). Given source of heteroskedasticity in thesemod in Table

lines, we deal with this more systematically, by modeling the variance of the regres sion line using heteroskedastic regression.7 Table 4 shows models similar to those in Table described the variance models 3, in

reestimated with Note 7.We

see that, as expected, themargin of error we computed for each county subsample has a sys term of the tematic influence on the disturbance for each regression. The larger themar of error, the greater the variance is around the gin regression line for a given observation. choice model


els, we would not trust conventional we estimated themodels

standard errors, so 3 calculating robust

3, the Closely resembling the results in Table show county ideology is a significant choice models predictor of public assistance spending, but not health

174 Political Research Quarterly care expenditures. In the public assistance model, the negative and significant coefficient suggests that liberal counties spend more on things like wel fare programs than do more ideologically conservative counties. Again, the charter*ideology interaction term failed to reach statistical significance suggesting that producing more liberal/conservative policy These differences may be partly a function of outputs. the nature of political conflict surrounding welfare and counties



health care policies in the late 1990s.The late 1990s

a politically contentious era in welfare policy as controversial welfare reform efforts, driven by the law, were well adoption of the federal 1996 TANF

the relationship between ideological dispositions and is not conditioned by programs public assistance county structure. However,

county ideology on per capita spending on public health, medical care, mental health, or drug and alcohol abuse services is conditioned by county structure?more con servative counties with home rule charters spend, on

those connected to other forms of public assistance like welfare, tend to break down along political ideological lines. The finding here suggests that the influence of

the charter*ideology interaction term is again statistically significant in the health care model. Support for these types of health care services, similar to

under way at the county level. Thus, relative to health care policy, the high degree of political conflict con

understand these more nuanced redistributive policy areas.

nected towelfare may be behind themore robust rela assistance tionship between ideology and public expenditures; however, more research is needed to effects among the two

The findings presented here suggest students of sub national politics would benefit from paying additional attention to the ideological variation within individual states as well as variation between states. Using a well

the case of health care expenditures, the influence of ide ology is only apparent when counties have greater struc

average, fewer dollars on health care compared tomore ideologically liberal counties with home rule charters. In

tural freedom from the arms of the state government and

established, multiyear state survey instrument like the California Field Poll to create reliable, valid, and sta ble measures that subnational of local ideology as we do here indicates researchers can use similar method tools to advance our understanding of theway

where policy makers have greater administrative capac ity tomatch the policy to the preferences of their con stituents.As expected, the choice models show that the relationship between ideology and public protection expenditures found in Table 3 disappears, with county ideology having no significant impact on any of the allo cationai or developmental policies. Taken together, these results suggest that ideologi

ological local ideology influences local policy making and the extent towhich policy represents the political interests

cal cleavages at the local level help drive differences in counties' spending choices across redistributive poli cies. However, when considering the relationship between local ideology and local policy outputs, the counties' differs makeup ideological on the issue type under consideration, in depending addition to county structure.As hypothesized, county impact of

outputs across a range of policy areas including public health care and welfare. Importantly, the influence of counties' ideology varies across different policy issues with ideology playing amore important role on redistrib utive policy

of diverse, localized populations. We find that local policy outputs are influenced by counties' ideological dispositions where more liberal/ conservative counties produce more Uberal/conservative

ideology influences redistributive policy areas?where political conflict ismore likely to be felt?rather than those that are less politically contentious at themass level like developmental and allocation policies. Given this, even among redistributive policies the ideology policy linkage is not necessarily straightforward?

county structurematters. When considering health care spending, the impact of county ideology is only evident when coupled with a home rule charter that provides policy makers

little political conflict, intergovernmental expenditures and county-level demographic and socio economic contextual characteristics tend to drive expen diture patterns across the counties. The relationship between ideology and policy also appears to be condi tioned by county structure. In California, a home rule charter appears to strengthen the relationship between ideology and health care expenditures than the main

areas?those issues characterized by a of political conflict?and a less important higher degree role on issues where little political conflict occurs. On issues with

ideology appears to influence policy outputs regardless of county structure with more liberal/conservative

greater capacity to attune particular pol icy expenditures to ideological beliefs held among county residents.With public assistance policy, county

effects of county ideology alone would suggest. More conservative counties with charters are found to spend less on public health care relative tomore ideologically liberal counties. This set of findings challenges previous assumptions connected to the local policy-making



and Neiman


and Local



process. Prior research suggests that local economic con main driving force behind local policy siderations are the decisions and local governments should be biased against redistributive policies. Taken as a whole, we show that thatunder theright political and structural con

that a variety of local political forces continues to shape policy and provides a framework for a produc tive and rewarding research agenda in the area of local government policy making.

which our findings here are representative of the local ideology-policy relationship in other county govern ments across the U.S. political system. Does the fact thatwe find associations ideology and policy in California suggest that these same forces spill over to other county governments in other regions such as between

ditions, there is still room for local politics to influence policy choices at the local level of government. Finally, it is important to consider the extent to

state public opinion using pooled national sample sur measuring veys. In principle, these alternatives are also feasible formeasuring county-level ideology. surveys These alternatives include pooling

1. Cohen (2006, 6-10) describes a varietyof alternatives to

with subunit samples (Jones and Norrander 1996), combining graphicunits (Beyle,Niemi, and Sigelman 2002) and simulating public opinion using surveydata or other political information (Weber et al. 1972-1973; Berry et al. 1998; Park, Bafumi, and
Gelman 2003). Given the absence subunit parable county-level dent surveys of California these alternatives. alternative surveys with com or any comparable samples indepen counties, we are unable to pursue two of of California independent taken within comparable subnational geo


theNortheast, South, orMidwest? DeSantis and Renner (1996) note significant vari ation in county spending levels throughout different

regions of the United States. Traditionally, western counties spend more (in absolute terms) than counties in other regions?especially those counties in the South, which tend to have more to local The governments. of the early twentieth century has left a lasting legacy on Western county govern ments as most are considered "reformed" govern governments Progressive movement ments relative powerful state

Simulating county-level ideology is a reasonable Berkman and Plutzer 2005), but these techniques (see about connections generally rely on extensive assumptions between individual demographic attributes and opinions. We make dents different assumptions, in these pooled namely statewide that the coverage of county resi allow us to samples of California

capture a meaningful simulate public who

to and, with that, have a greater capacity deliver an increasing array of services. Our study, which examines the influence of local political ideol

about forming public opinion from the aggregationof individual

of ideology. Scholars county-level measure share our assumptions opinion measures

ogy on policy in the State of California, with its reformed county structures and relatively active county governments is most likely to be representa tive of local policy making in the western United States. As the population of California and the rest of the western states continues communities

2. The Field Poll uses samples of theCalifornia telephone household populationdrawn fromrandomdigit dial (RDD) sam
ples of Survey Sampling The sample is a stratified Incorporated. are systematically counties where sample of California samples stratified to all counties to each county's in proportion share of infor Code

In sum, the simulation of public opinion is complemen opinions. tary to the approach we take, but not clearly preferable.

in the survey area. Further sampling telephone households can be referenced mation from the California Field Poll Books 1990-1999.

to grow and as local form unique political attitudes caused by increasing racial and ethnic diversity, finding asso ciations between local ideological attitudes and local policy is an important contribution by itself. Although absolute spending levels have been doc

the mean square, an estimate of the popula design contemplates tion variance between units, MS (a), and the mean aggregate scores within the aggregated square for individual-level units, MS(r:a), using the formula:

3. O'Brien's (1990) generalizabilitycoefficientfor theR:A


tive spending levels in counties in regions of the country that have traditionally spent fewer dollars in absolute number terms. In the end, this is an empirical ques tion that is beyond the scope of this research. A of regular, institutionalized state-level

to be highest in theWest, there remains a strong likelihood that creating reliable and valid mea sures of county ideology can be shown to shape rela


[MS(a)-MS(r:a)] MS(a)

MS (a) andMS(r:a) were estimatedusing the one-wayANOVA

in SPSS. procedure 4. However, in both home ties, the county elected. indicators 6. We oriented based rule charter and general law coun attorney, and assessor must be


sheriff, district

Network of StatePolls 2007) suggest veys (National

the possibility that scholars can create ideology mea sures like those used here to test the influence of ide

5. The definitions the budget itemsproviding thepolicy of

are discussed in an appendix to the State of California

CountiesAnnual Report (Connell 2001, 145-7).

follow other researchers variables dependent on a small number from data who have investigated policy from a cross-sectional or measure, an independent variable larger set of years (e.g.,

ology in counties outside the western region of the United States. Importantly, we believe the analysis here adds to the growing body of work suggesting


of years using from an inclusive

176 Political Research Quarterly we Schneider and Jacoby 2006; Uslaner 2006). The indicators
and other researchers use Benton, vice Berkman, Edwin roles J., and Platon dominance: and 1985. Patterns city and central of metropol ser

to systematically model sources model is used to test hypotheses and a variance model choice model's = is used disturbance

7. Harvey (1976) develops a regression model thatallows us

of heteroskedasticity. about the dependent systematic A choice in the variable,

are contemporaneous.

itan service

Rigos. Central

compared. Michael B., Politics


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