When Voters Matter: The Limits of Local Government Responsiveness

December 16, 2020 // 0 Comments

By Michael W. Sances (Temple University) | V.O. Key famously wrote, “Unless mass views have some place in the shaping of policy, all the talk about democracy is nonsense.” While formally democratic, governed as they are by elected representatives, whether local governments meet Key’s standard of democratic responsiveness is unclear. In recent years, several scholars have found correlations between the policy outputs of large cities and the views of their publics, with more liberal cities producing more liberal policies. Yet these patterns could emerge even if cities were not democratically responsive. Additionally, local government is much more than large cities; yet we know little about how the thousands of smaller municipal, township, and special district governments represent their voters. In a recent article in Urban Affairs Review, I find evidence that local governments are indeed responsive in some areas, but not at all responsive in others. Read More