Laurel Harbridge Yong

Associate Professor, Political ScienceNorthwestern University

Award Information

Negotiating Agreement in Congress Research Grants 2016

Associate Professor, Political Science

The Limits of Electoral Accountability: Passing the Buck for Congressional Inaction

Many perspectives of representative democracy assume that voters will hold elected officials accountable when their behavior falls short of expectations. Given widespread public frustration with gridlock, legislators should have incentives to reach agreements. However, gridlock persists. One explanation for this pattern may be that legislators can avoid penalties for inaction by shifting blame to other actors, leaving voters unsure about who to penalize for aggregate outcomes like gridlock. We utilize content analysis of legislators' communications with constituents, as well as a survey experiment to assess how members explain gridlock and whether they can avoid voter penalties by passing the buck.