Public Opinion in State Politics

By Jeffrey E. Cohen | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 5
Public Opinion in the States:
Determinants of Legislative Job Performance

JOHN A. HAMMAN


Introduction

Public dissatisfaction with government deepened in the years following the Vietnam War and Watergate. Yet, some institutions fared worse in the eyes of the public than others. While substantial majorities of the American public at times approved of the president, as many as two-thirds disapproved of Congress (Patterson and Magleby, 1992).1 Many studies fault legislative professionalism for the low legislative job performance ratings (Cotter, 1986; Davidson and Oleszek, 1994; Durr, Gilmour, and Wolbrecht, 1997; Hibbing and Thiess-Morse, 1995; Jewell, 1982; Newkirk, 1979; Parker, 1997).

Systematic study of the relationship between legislative professionalism and job performance ratings has been difficult. At the national level, there is only one unit of analysis. The independent variable, legislative professionalism, does not vary. Stronger research designs are possible at the state level where levels of legislative professionalism vary by state. However, the unavailability of comparable data for a large sample of states has limited studies to one or a relatively few states (Cotter, 1986; Squire, 1993).2 More powerful comparative research designs at the state level have not yet been fully realized.

This analysis extends the designs of previous studies of legislative professionalism and job performance in the states. Data from more than 120 polls taken in 13 states as well as two national surveys serve as the basis for

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